Historic Miller Theater renovation moves forward



The restoration project at downtown Augusta’s Miller Theater is moving forward with the selection of an architectural team and plans to acquire property next door.

At a news conference Fri­day, Symphony Orchestra Augusta announced that Atlan­ta-based Lord Aeck & Sar­gent and Augusta’s 2KM Archi­tects Inc. will work together to restore the historic theater, which has been vacant since 1984.

The $14.6 million project is expected to be completed for the 2014-15 season, though that is fairly aggressive and depends on fundraising, said Levi Hill IV, the chairman of the Miller steering committee.

The theater will serve as a performing arts hall and music institute. Hill said the symphony plans to acquire the vacant Cullum’s building next door to expand the theater.

“We really don’t have enough space in the theater itself to do these things,” Hill said. “Fortunately, there’s space nearby.”

The facility next door will allow space for rehearsals and classrooms and serve as a gathering place for theatergoers. The properties will be structured in a nonprofit limited liability corporation that will be governed by a board of directors that has been appointed by the symphony, Hill said.

Tony Aeck, the principal architect for Lord Aeck & Sargent, said he had a crew taking laser scans of the main hall for measurements Friday. The firm has meetings scheduled Monday to begin evaluating the facility, he said.

“We’re confident we can breathe new life into this building, and hopefully it will breathe some new life into downtown,” Aeck said.

Lord Aeck & Sargent will consult with Kirkegaard Asso­ciates and Theatre Consul­tants Collaborative Inc. for the project, which Aeck said are “first-rank firms.”

The Miller project is eligible to receive $5.1 million in special purpose local option sales tax funding if the symphony can raise 25 percent.

During tours of the theater, Hill said some modifications are needed, though work will be done to preserve its architectural features, Italian marble floors, anodized aluminum handrails, flesh-toned mirrors and paintings.

The balcony is too deep and hinders sound quality for those in the back. Architects will need to remove five rows from the front of the balcony and extend the stage by eight feet, Hill said.

The seat count will be reduced to about 1,300 from about 1,500 to accommodate the changes. Seats lost on the floor will be replaced with box seats on the wall. Architects will hang another front row of seats onto the balcony, Hill said.

A staircase will be built leading to the space at Cul­lum’s, which is about four feet lower.

In 2008, Peter Knox offered the building as a gift to the symphony, which took possession of the building in De­cember after conducting a 2½-year feasibility study.

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SLIDESHOW: Miller Theater Tour