Miller can be 'focus of attraction' downtown

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The term "theater district" carries a strong visual image.

One pictures immediately the glittering marquees, excited crowds, the air of expectancy as people hurry from one or another of the nearby restaurants to immerse themselves in an evening of music -- orchestral, jazz, rock or choral, classical ballet or interpretive dance, opera, famous plays by gifted performers, or experimental work by local writers.

Later comes an image of crowds pouring out into the streets and dispersing to local coffee houses or lounges or night bakeries to discuss the evening -- pausing now and then to admire something in a window of one of the attractive shops along the way.

But Augusta doesn't have a vibrant "theater district" to excite people or attract business leaders to the city.

WE HAVE A world-class symphony orchestra bouncing from one venue to another; a fabulous opera, poorly quartered; and no focus point around which shops and restaurants congregate and contribute to the magnetic force that must exist to hold the city to its core.

We do have a master plan that includes a multi-thousand-seat performing arts center -- but that is likely to be a decade away, and the cost could turn out to be prohibitive.

On the other hand, a nucleus for our "theater district" is right at hand: the Miller and Imperial theaters!

When renovated, the Miller will seat 1,400, compared to The Brooklyn Academy of Music, where the world-famous Boston Symphony plays some of its New York season, at about 3,000. The Imperial, at 800, can be compared to the classic Barrymore Theater on Broadway, with 1,096.

CONSIDERING THE relative populations, this capacity seems generous indeed, and certainly capable of carrying us well into the future and transforming one area of the city into a neighborhood, if you will, alive with the performing arts.

In Georgia, the Miller is second in size only to the Fox in Atlanta, and has its own impressive history of world premieres and famous visitors. It is a nearly empty shell, but structurally sound and protected from deterioration by an entirely new roof.

And, in a generous act of civic responsibility, it has been given to the Augusta Symphony by Mr. Peter Knox IV!

It has been estimated that renovation of the Miller into a top-level concert and multipurpose performing arts center will cost approximately $10 million to $12 million.

WHILE SOME of this can, of course, be borne by private and corporate contributions, the use of special purpose local option sales tax funds, requested by the Augusta Symphony, is critical to spearhead the effort, and clearly in the interest of every Augustan.

The city should embrace this project now, when the much-needed creation of this sort of downtown "focus of attraction" can be accomplished at a fraction of the cost attached to demolition and building from scratch at some point in the future.

And when, at the same time, we can support a tradition of preserving our historic buildings for new roles in their old age.

(The writer is a retired Medical College of Georgia professor and an Augusta resident since 1961.)

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story1
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story1 01/11/09 - 09:41 am
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Hats off to Dr. Hudson for

Hats off to Dr. Hudson for this Letter to the Editor. A restored Miller is vital for Augusta's continued efforts to revitalize downtown and breathe life back into our historic theatres.

SAugustateacher
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SAugustateacher 01/11/09 - 10:45 am
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Bring back the Miller! I took

Bring back the Miller! I took a tour of it three years ago and I must say it is a magnificant venue. I went to the top of the balcony and could hear everything that Peter Knox said at the base of the stage!

sprintman
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sprintman 01/11/09 - 12:22 pm
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A Theatre district sounds

A Theatre district sounds great downtown. I can't believe Augusta thinking outside the box. Is almost becoming a norm around here. Have we really turned the page.

gcap
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gcap 01/11/09 - 01:09 pm
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Ever so slowly Augusta seems

Ever so slowly Augusta seems to be turning things around. Reviving the Miller would be a giant step forward. Even bigger: give the mayor a vote!

SandyK2005
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SandyK2005 01/11/09 - 01:16 pm
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"Later comes an image of

"Later comes an image of crowds pouring out into the streets and dispersing to local coffee houses or lounges or night bakeries to discuss the evening -- pausing now and then to admire something in a window of one of the attractive shops along the way." ----- Drats! Was thinking it would've been a more formal attire affair (white tie -- at least the opera), considering there's no venues to wear formal clothing. It's exactly the class needed in this city, too.

sprintman
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sprintman 01/11/09 - 02:34 pm
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This is a wonderful idea for

This is a wonderful idea for the city. Maybe if the writer of this story got more of his buddies from MCG. To move downtown into whites building, olde towne, enterprise mill, woolworth building, green building, cobb house, or a loft/apartment on broad street. It would be a easier sell because you would have a larger more affluent population living downtown. There have been numerous new people moving downtown. But only more people living there can help.

theatreorganman
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theatreorganman 01/11/09 - 03:17 pm
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This news is a pivotal

This news is a pivotal turning point for downtown Augusta and for the city's artistic endeavors as a whole! I hope that as the renovation project proceeds for the Miller that those at the helm will be sensitive to the theatre's rare and wonderful moderne architecture. There is a way to preserve and enhance the original fabric of the theatre and to still allow good acoustics, additional restrooms, and the like. But the architects and designers MUST be well versed in not only current practice, but they must have a passion for the theatre's original architectural statement, backed by sound knowledge of design history.

HillGuy
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HillGuy 01/11/09 - 05:56 pm
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The Miller could be Augusta's

The Miller could be Augusta's answer to Atlanta's Fox Theater! I had no idea it was the second largest in the state after The Fabulous Fox. The Miller would be the perfect venue for touring Broadway shows, The Symphony, and The Augusta Opera. The impact this would have on downtown and the area in general would be enormous.

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