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ORG will pursue $500k grant for Bent’s

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 29 April 2013 at 12:00 am

State funding would replace roof on historic Medina building

Photos by Tom Rivers – The Orleans Renaissance group wants to restore the third floor as a performing arts venue for musicians and other artists.

Civil War re-enactors stopped in front of the Bent’s Opera House on Saturday for a ceremony in front of the building that opened during the Civil War.

MEDINA The organization that owns the historic three-story Bent’s Opera House is optimistic it will receive a $500,000 state grant to replace the roof and work on second and third floor restoration projects.

The Orleans Renaissance Group sought a $500,000 grant from the state last year, but was denied. This time the organization has a stronger application, ORG officials said.

It has since received grants for engineering and architectural studies, and other funding for the first floor and the façade. The Orleans Renaissance Group just last week was awarded a $10,000 matching grant from the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution for restoration of the first-floor storefront, façade and windows.

“I think we have an excellent chance of getting a grant this time,” said Bridgette Yaxley, ORG’s grantwriter. “The roof is a huge priority.”

Chris Busch, vice president of the Orleans Renaissance Group, sits inside the Bent’s Opera House on Saturday, just below the balcony.

The grant application is expected to be due in July, when it goes before the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council. That group will pick projects as part of a bigger application that goes before the state, which will announce the funded projects in December.

“This time we have the engineering studies and the smaller grants to help get approved for the big grant,” said Lynne Menz, ORG administrator.

The ORG acquired the building and a nearby parking for free from Bank of America in 2008. ORG wants to restore the opera house, which opened in 1864. The top floor would be used as a performing arts venue, with a restaurant eyed for the second floor. Retail tenants are sought for the first floor.

The building was open for tours on Saturday following a parade of Civil War re-enactors in the downtown. Paul-Joseph Stuckmann, a member of the Greycliffe String Quartet in Buffalo, served as tour guide.

Paul-Joseph Stuckmann, in suit, leads a tour of the Bent’s Opera House on Saturday. Stuckmann, a member of the Greycliffe String Quartet, said the acoustics are outstanding in the former opera house.

“The historical value of this place is very high,” Stuckmann said. “There s tremendous potential here as a place to perform music and arts.”

He thinks a restored Bent’s Opera House would be a draw, pulling people from between Rochester and Buffalo. Stuckmann stood on the main stage and played his violin on Saturday while visitors looked over the third-floor space including the balcony.

“As a performer, I can hear my sound all over the room, which is great,” he said. “The acoustics are wonderful in here.”