Symphony Orchestra Augusta, Augusta Landmarks unite to salvage Miller

  • Follow Metro

Rather than competing for power and ownership, two nonprofits have started working together to see progress in the renovation of The Miller Theater.

Members of Symphony Orchestra Augusta and Augusta Landmarks have met on several occasions to work out the best possible solution.

"The symphony is a key player in the arts community," said Mike Deas, the founder of Augusta Landmarks. "Their focus and our focus is to do what's best for the Miller and what's best for Augusta. A really big project like that takes a whole community's involvement. And all arts groups will be needed to rent the building."

"Mike and his group have a real passion for the Miller," Jim Huff, the president of Augusta Symphony board of directors, said of Deas and Augusta Landmarks. "And the symphony is still committed to finishing the project. We're interested in working with anyone who's willing to help in renovating the Miller."

The person who most wants to see progress is probably owner Peter Knox. Knox bought the dilapidated theater on Broad Street in 2005 and offered it as a gift to the symphony.

He replaced the roof and removed moldy carpet and furniture. He had a ventilation system installed to keep the air dry inside the auditorium.

The symphony applied for and received approval to get special purpose local option sales tax funding to help with renovations and paid consultants to see whether the old theater's stage could be modified to accommodate the orchestra. It hired consultants to create a five-year business plan and project how much money would be needed to keep the theater running after renovation, and it hired fundraising consultants to figure out whether the community would open its purse for the cause; results of that study are scheduled to be completed in August or September.

"The symphony still is plugging away with their timeline; it just doesn't sync with mine," Knox said. "But they certainly have put the most thorough thoughts and efforts into coming up with a plan. Somebody else would have to start from scratch."

In July, Knox said he was tired of waiting for the symphony, and he threatened to put the theater on the market. Instead, he offered it to Augusta Landmarks. Deas said he immediately met with Augusta Commission members J.R. Hatney and Matt Aitken, in whose districts the theater is located, to inquire about Augusta Landmarks receiving the $5.1 million special purpose tax money.

"They're very much supportive of seeing the Miller restored," was all Deas would say about that conversation.

Tim Schroer, the assistant finance director for the city, previously said that if the symphony does not receive the building or raise the required amount of matching money, the tax money would be "redirected within the category of parks/recreation/culture/library/facilities" as decided by the commission.

Knox said he is "just trying to wash my hands of it."

The building is not listed with a real estate agent because Knox said he doesn't feel like putting any energy into it. He is willing, however, to sell to anyone who wants it. He said he's not interested in making a profit, just getting it out of his hands and back into good use.

Knox had the electricity turned off at the theater after receiving a bill for $500 from Georgia Power last month, so the ventilation fans no longer operate.

"I was astounded, and that was the straw that broke the camel's back," Knox said. "I have an insurance bill on it due in August again. Every time I pay those bills, it's just money I'm tired of spending."

A church, Revivify Church Inc., contacted The Augusta Chronicle and said it sent Knox a certified letter requesting he give the theater to them. Knox said Tuesday he was out of town and has not received the letter. He said he did not get his hopes up.

"They'd be in the same situation as everybody else," the owner said. "The building can't be occupied until it's brought up to code, and that would take millions of dollars. So, unless they've got millions and millions of dollars just sitting around, they can't do anything with it."

Comments (6) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
tomcasey 07/26/11 - 10:02 pm
Save the Miller Theater!

Save the Miller Theater!

floridasun 07/26/11 - 11:07 pm
The Miller Theater should be

The Miller Theater should be saved. It is great Symphony Orchestra Augusta and Augusta Landmarks are working together to develop a feasible plan to restore the Miller. If anyone can bring this Augusta landmark back these are the groups to do it.

Austin Rhodes
Austin Rhodes 07/27/11 - 08:43 am
During in depth discussions

During in depth discussions with both Mike Deas and Sandra Self (Symphony) as this situation broke, it became pretty clear that the Symphony, IF THEY MOVE FORWARD, wanted to bring the building into acoustic standard for their performances. The main problem with that is that it makes the project FAR more expensive (in the millions of $$$) than just a retrofit of the theater for multi-purpose use.

Tough spot to be in...but if the Symphony undertakes this, it may be to the exclusion of other groups and uses, and with a FAR larger price tag.


AutumnLeaves 07/27/11 - 09:02 am
This article gives me hope

This article gives me hope The Miller can be saved and be a profitable venue. I appreciate what Mike Deas of Augusta Landmark and the Augusta Symphony are trying to do to save this Augusta historical and cultural landmark and the initial interest and financial efforts of Peter Knox. It is an ambitious endeavor.

Emerydan 07/27/11 - 08:34 pm
The best person to transform

The best person to transform the Miller into a viable cultural venue is Mike Deas. I have heard him talk about his vision for the theater on local talk radio shows and this man has the passion to do it. Plus, I believe his plan would be less expensive than the Symphony's and would allow the theater to be used for a wider variety of entertainment.. such as screenings of classic movies, concerts, plays, etc. Mr Knox would be wise to put this in the hands of Mr Deas. Also, the Augusta commission needs to do all it can to make sure the splost moneys stay with the Miller project, whether or not the symphony is the principal player in its restoration.

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 07/27/11 - 11:33 pm
I love what Mike Deas has

I love what Mike Deas has done for entertainment in Augusta and what he will do in the future. I had tears of nostalgia and tears of appreciation in my eyes when I went to his "movie + concert" featuring “Here To Eternity” plus a Thom Bresh concert a year and a half ago at Fort Discovery.

Austin Rhodes’ post above is true. What the symphony wants and what Mike can pull off are too far apart. One of these two entities must pull away.

Back to Top
Search Augusta jobs