Rebirth announcement

Miller Theatre could gain new life with Symphony Orchestra Augusta

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Peter Knox didn’t merely stand in the way of the wrecking ball in saving the historic Miller Theater. He stood up to Mother Nature and Father Time.

Now, six years after the Augusta philanthropist stepped up to buy the vacant 1940 theater and vaudeville house – and preserve it in suspended animation with a new roof to halt deterioration from the elements – it looks like entertainment promoter Frank Miller’s baby is about to be reborn.

After some three years of due diligence involving five consultants and a study funded by board member Brian Marks, Symphony Orchestra Augusta’s board of directors voted unanimously Thursday night – one at a time, in dramatic fashion – to accept the gift of the Miller from Mr. Knox.

Already armed with just over $5 million in special purpose local option sales tax funds approved by the Augusta Commission and Richmond County voters in 2009, the symphony will now embark on finalizing renovation plans and obtaining the private monies that surely will be necessary to round out the as-yet undisclosed cost of the project – expected to be upward of $20 million.

But as board President Joseph Huff noted at an announcement Friday morning in the arcade of the old theater, this historic decision means the symphony will have a home for the first time in its 57-year history; the organization will be able to extend its mission and reach; and the local arts community will have another catalyst for growth and collaboration.

Huff announced the symphony intends on using the new home to create what they’re tentatively calling the Miller Music Institute for local music education.

Mr. Knox’s donation, it appears, will be the gift that keeps on giving.

The effects of a renovated Miller could go far beyond even all that, however. Mayor Deke Copenhaver, citing a white paper by the Mayors’ Institute on City Design, said a project such as the Miller is one that can create a “sense of place” in a city core. He said a reborn Miller can help re-create a theater district along Broad Street, along with the Imperial, and all the ancillary vibrancy that entails.

“This is a game-changer,” the mayor told the crowd assembled at the Miller.

That this is happening at a time when the country and even the world are nearly paralyzed with economic uncertainty is a testament to the symphony’s chutzpah in taking on the Miller renovation. It’s living proof of what Copenhaver called a new can-do attitude in Augusta.

A renovated Miller will feature approximately 1,300 seats (a size not now easily accommodated downtown) and will require a larger stage for live performances than the original Miller needed for movies and vaudeville.

The timeline for renovation has not been established. Regardless, the marquee out front has finally proven accurate:

It’s Miller time.

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story1
802
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story1 09/25/11 - 08:22 am
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To cut off the balcony of

To cut off the balcony of this beautiful theater is Just Wrong. Only wished more Arts Groups, experts, Historic Augusta and the public were involved in the SOA discussions with consultants especially since Tax Payers will pay for this project. If you , your parents, your grandparents had fond memories of the once beautiful Miller - Stand Up Augusta and don't let SOA destroy a Jewel in our community.

DuhJudge
206
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DuhJudge 09/25/11 - 08:43 am
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I really hate to be the first

I really hate to be the first to post here. The last music hall I visited was in Lucerne, Switzerland two years ago. It was nice, on the lake, beautiful. But I have been equally entertained here in Augusta going to POPS concerts at the BELL Auditorium. It is not about the quality of the venue, its all about the quality of the performance. Which the Augusta Symphony is HIGH quality. I am concerned that the Symphony is going to be stressed using a $20 million need that ultimately has to be a political encounter with the similarly stressed taxpayer. I guess the buildings next door and down the street have just realized a value windfall, but for some reason my properties just don't get anything but a bill. I remember the Miller too.....but $20,000,000?

DuhJudge
206
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DuhJudge 09/25/11 - 08:47 am
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And of course I am aware that

And of course I am aware that the symphony performs its concerts in a church now with pews and poor acoustics. But $20 million.....build something new.

Riverman1
86854
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Riverman1 09/25/11 - 09:43 am
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The cost is excessive, plus

The cost is excessive, plus the tiny building front architecture doesn't fit in with historic Augusta. It's art moderne as an Airstream trailer and would be a better fit at the trailer park in South Augusta where Clarence Thomas parked his RV when he visited.

There are many empty places on Broad St. that could be bought, torn down and a new architecturally significant performing arts center that would be better suited for the symphony than the Miller built at less cost.

ColumbiaCountyOrchestraA
24
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ColumbiaCountyOrchestraA 09/25/11 - 10:03 am
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The plan outlined by the SOA

The plan outlined by the SOA is tremendously short sighted, historically insensitive, and leaves Michael Deas and the "Save the Miller" organization completely out of the plans. Richmond County voters should stand up and demand that the structural and historical integrity of the Miller be preserved. To spend $20-30 million would be better used erecting a new hall for the SOA and let the folks who want to "Save the Miller" have the chance to actually save it. The SOA plan for the Miller Theater will forever change a treasure in Augusta's history. I stand with Michael Deas and his plan to restore this wonderful Augusta landmark. Anything short of restoring the Miller to its former glory (for much less money than $20 million), will be a great mistake. If the SOA wants to spend $20 million, let them build a new edifice, but leave Augusta's history alone.
Sincerely,
Rob Nordan

Dipshot
-5
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Dipshot 09/25/11 - 01:16 pm
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This is a major step back for

This is a major step back for The Miller Theater. The ACES is trying their best to make this turd smell like a rose, but it isn't working. For more than $20 million the Symphony could build a brand new facility to their specifications. Instead they want to spend all this money to gut an historic theater, making it suitable for only their concerts and maybe an opera or two a year. And I bet they will still not be satisfied with the venue after all is said and done. If they intend to spend this much money, why not just build a new facility? And then hand the Miller over to a group who truly wants to restore it (at a fraction of the cost of what the Symphony wants to spend) and put in into good use for a wider variety of entertainment. Think about it folks, if it has taken this long for the Symphony to simply come to a decision to accept The Miller as a gift from Peter Knox, then just imagine how long it will take them to actually raise the money they will need to actually get the place open again. Major setback for the Miller here. This is not something to celebrate.

commonsense-is-endangere
43
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commonsense-is-endangere 09/25/11 - 02:52 pm
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The plan represents the fog

The plan represents the fog of free (taxpayer's) money.

ColumbiaCountyOrchestraA
24
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ColumbiaCountyOrchestraA 09/25/11 - 03:36 pm
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Are there no more people in

Are there no more people in the CSRA who care and are concerned about this than have posted on this blog? Maybe Mike Deas and real "Save the Miller" supporters need to turn the heat up some more on this powder keg.

Dipshot
-5
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Dipshot 09/25/11 - 03:45 pm
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I am also convinced that The

I am also convinced that The Symphony would have just continued to sit on their hands making Mr Knox wait for an answer if he had not given them an ultimatum this Summer to make up their minds or he was selling it or giving it to someone else. "Due diligence"? I say horsefeathers. It's just the SOA doesn't want to have to give up that $5.3 million in splost money they suckered the taxpayers into handing over to them. And why was that ever put on the SPLOST in the first place if The SOA had no idea that this building would even suit their needs and would even take the gift from Mr Knox? I mean they wasted no time to get the taxpayers to pony up millions but yet they take 3 years to make a decision, and only after prodded to do so by Mr Knox.

Dipshot
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Dipshot 09/25/11 - 03:46 pm
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CCorchestra, since the

CCorchestra, since the building is still owned by Mr Knox, can he change his mind, especially considering what the symphony intends to do to it? Is there a way concerned citizens can contact Mr Knox?

Little Lamb
46902
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Little Lamb 09/26/11 - 10:02 am
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Okay, at the present time the

Okay, at the present time the symphony does six "masterwork" concerts each year plus four "pops" concerts plus one Westobou concert. So the symphony will occupy eleven evenings of entertainment in the refurbished theater. I guess they might try to rent it out the other three hundred fifty four evenings a year. Good luck with that.

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