Miller Theater project moves forward

The restoration project for the historic Miller Theater is moving forward.

After taking possession of the Broad Street building in December, Symphony Orchestra Augusta is trying to find an architect and is accepting proposals, said Levi Hill IV, the chairman of the Miller Theater steering committee.

“We’re in the early stages of looking at design and architectural support for the project,” Hill said. “We are excited to be in a position to move forward with this project. We feel that Augustans are eager to see the Miller reopen.”

The committee would like to select an architect by late April or early May. The project, expected to total $14.5 million, is eligible to receive $5.2 million in special purpose local option sales tax funding, if Sym­phony Orchestra Augusta can raise 25 percent of the amount.

The committee will need to launch a fundraising campaign to raise the remaining $9.3 million for the project and establish an endowment to help sustain the theater, Hill said.

“We’re looking to renovate the Miller to accommodate various types of performances throughout the area. It will be not only the home for the symphony, but it will also accommodate other stage performances, dance as well as music and opera,” Hill said.

The orchestra would like to open the facility during its 2014-15 season, he said. The 1,300-plus seat performing arts hall will be available for rental by promoters and arts groups.

In 2008, Peter Knox offered the building as a gift to the orchestra. It spent about 2 ½ years conducting a feasibility study involving five consultants to determine whether the restoration was a viable project.

The Miller has served mostly as a movie theater, but it was also built to accommodate live performances, Hill said.

“We have proposed to make some modifications to the stage to expand the stage space," he said. "That’s going to be necessary to enable other performances to play there. The stage right now is rather shallow. It’s common with old theaters like the Miller to have a stage expansion. That’s the biggest renovation."

The committee plans to “maintain the architectural style of the building, but also make it usable for contemporary performing events.” The goal is to preserve the millwork, hardware and general shape of the building as much as possible, Hill said.

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