The 90-year-old Akron Civic Theatre is poised to undergo a major restoration and expansion project that is expected to take the venue into the next 90 years.
Theater officials have raised close to 90% of an $8.5 million capital campaign called “Staging the Future.” The money will be used to complete a restoration that ended in 2002 without finishing the front of the building and Grand Lobby.
Visitors can clearly see where the restoration ended in the ornate hand-painted ceiling. According to Executive Director Howard Parr, leaving that demarcation was intentional.
“We did not anticipate in 2002 that it was going to be 17-18 years before we were able to finish the rest of it,” he said. “But it definitely was something we did on purpose and when you see it in the real color that it’s supposed to be it’s so much different and so much more amazing than it already is.”
Beginning in January, the project will also add a new box office and administrative offices, and restore the entry arcade. The Knight Foundation provided $4 million toward converting the Whitelaw Building next door into a 220-seat venue for performances, events and community functions, Parr said.
In addition to the work inside, the project will also transform the outside of the Civic Theatre.
“We’re going to put up two large scale murals, one on the outside wall facing Lock 3 of the Grand Lobby, and the other on the outside wall of the Grand Lobby facing Lock 4. We’re also going to have a very large video screen,” Parr said. “What we’re trying to do there is make the outside of the building as much of an asset as the inside of the building.”
The entire project is expected to be completed by the end of next summer.