Updates on the Richwood Opera House

I would like to update everyone on what’s been going on with the Richwood Opera House. For those who aren’t aware, the Opera House has been in a state of disrepair. The building has been largely unused since the early 2000s. The roof has been in danger of collapsing, the ceiling supports on the second floor have already collapsed, and the cost to repair has been very hefty. The Richwood Redevelopment Committee (RRC) was formed in October of 2020 by the Village Council. Their job has been to find ways to raise money for the Opera House and deal with the shoring up of the building and eventual restoration and renovation.

This photo was taken on the second floor of the Opera House. The wood on the ground is the ceiling supports. The big long beams are the truss members that have failed. Metal rods can be seen sticking out of the hanging beams which make up part of the support of the ceiling.

In September, the Opera House was named by Preservation Ohio as 2020 Ohio’s Most Endangered Historic Site. The first meeting of the RRC was on October 22, 2020. The committee includes Reddy Brown, Chairperson; Aaron Smith, Vice Chairperson; Gail DeGood-Guy, Secretary; R. Shandel, Treasurer. The committee also makes up 11 voting members. They started by defining the objectives and challenges of the committee. Different age groups view the Opera House in different ways. On one end: Younger age groups may not even know it exists. On the other end: Many older citizens grew up in the Opera House. This project of dealing with a dilapidated historic building that holds sentimental value to many citizens of Richwood is unique and we’re exploring new waters with it.

The first step was to establish different options on how to deal with the building and present them to the Village Council to decide. The short term plan was established first. Quotes from various contractors were received to shore up the roof for the winter. Then they established a long term plan such as do they want to simply tear it down, preserve some or all of the building, move the Village offices back inside the building, or even sell the building out to companies, venues, ect. Grants were also discussed since these would largely be responsible for funding the project.

The slag on the north side exterior of the roof is clearly visible.

There are four sections to the building. The west tower contains offices and the clock. The center had with fire dept. and gym and is the worst damaged area. In the east section, two bays are used to house Village stop light equipment. And the basement which appears to be in fairly good shape. There are three main areas of concern: the building needs a new roof, structural issues need to be dealt with, and the brick needs to be repointed. New stairwells are also needed and it needs to be ADA compliant which includes constructing an elevator. The motion was made and moved forward with getting sealed bids.

It was stressed that since the building is historic, the slate roof should be as original as possible. It doesn’t necessarily has to be slate but the roof line should be kept close with its original line. The large federal grants are only available for places that are registered with the National Register of Historic Places. Aaron Smith took upon himself to start this process. Parking was also talked about and the Richwood-North Union Public Library, which is located across the street, is willing to partner with the Village to use their parking.

Richwood Coffee, located inside the Richwood Bank, now has the Opera House as a beneficiary. Customers who buy a drink now have the option to donate to help with the building renovations. Other ways for donations are currently being looked at.

On December 15, 2020, State. Rep. Tracy Richardson (R-Marysville) announced state lawmakers began hearings today on Ohio’s proposed two-year state construction budget, which includes funding for a variety of initiatives across the state as well as aid for local projects in Marion and Union counties. In these local projects included funding for the Richwood Opera House. The Village received $50,000 after this bill, named Senate Bill 310, was passed on December 29. Meanwhile, five different companies were considered and/or gave bids to shore up the roof. Two companies were over budget at $100,000 to complete the work. Two companies were under budget of less than $97,000 using Derwacter structural engineering guidelines. Meyer Restoration, with an $89,100 bid to remove all the debris and install shoring per Derwacter, was selected by the committee to present to the Village Council to proceed.

On December 14, 2020, Village Council voted to keep and restore the full building to use for Village government, police, museum, community hall/venue, resiliency center, community services and/or offices. The council also voted to hire Meyer Restoration, with an $89,100 bid to remove all the debris and install shoring per Derwacter, to shore up the roof. According to Derwacter, the floor should handle the load of the scaffolding. However, to be extra safe, Meyer Restoration will use a measuring device to ensure the floor can maintain the scaffolding weight. The approximate additional cost for the device is $2,000. Work on shoring up the roof began on January 18, 2021. The company started by cleaning up the downed ceiling. Next up was to use the shoring to shore up the broken truss enough to cut it away safely. The next week the shoring was built toward the weak beam to help hold it up. The measuring system, transit, targets, and checksheets was installed as the last scaffold was put into place on February 8. The total cost for Meyer Restoration was $91,208: $60,228 to shore up the roof, $16,900 for the scaffolding (which the village will then own) and $14,080 for a rubber roof, antenna removal & measuring machine.

Meyer Restoration after they put up the scaffolding on the second floor of the Richwood Opera House.

The committee as well as the Village Council agreed to move the village government office and police station back inside the building. A phased work schedule was drafted by the committee. This was further elaborated on when they created a timeline for their paperwork to receive the capital funds via S.B. 310. The project was expected to take three years to complete, 2021-2023. As of June 2021, the Richwood Redevelopment Committee is working with their contracted feasibility study vendor, Raising the Barr LLC, to plan for and conduct a fundraising analysis. Their job is to ask various people and businesses of Richwood if they would be willing to donate money and resources. They will inform the committee of the anticipated ratio of individual gifts, corporate gifts and grants that will be used in the construction phases of the project. This study will also inform the committee of how many phases of work that the construction project will take (which depends entirely on how much funds the committee has at a time to pay for the work). During this period, an Architecture & Engineering firm will be identified via bid process and contracted to more fully inform a detailed design of the building.

By November 2021, the feasibility study will have ended with the Architecture & Engineering firm submitting a final report to the Redevelopment Committee no later than March of 2022. After that, the Village Council will conduct a competitive bid process to identify a construction firm to undertake the first (or potentially only) phase of major renovation. The selected construction vendor will then perform the contracted work between July and December of 2022. If necessary, another competitive bid process may occur for a second phase of work, or the original contract may be amended to include additional deliveries. If necessary, this additional construction phase will occur in 2023 with the project estimated to be completed by December of 2023. This timeline is of course subject to change as challenges and problems appear but this gives an overall view of what the Richwood Redevelopment Committee expects to deal with in the coming years.

The current proposed floor plan is included in the images below. They include the first and second floors of the Opera House. The first floor is intended to house the village government along with the police department and a history room. The second floor will be a venue/meeting area to be rented out by residents of the town and includes a kitchen and a storage area for chairs and tables. Click here to see larger images of the floor plans.

If you would like to donate to the Richwood Redevelopment Committee, there are various ways you may do so. The first would be to setup the Opera House as a beneficiary at Richwood Coffee, located inside the Richwood Bank. Any cup of coffee you purchase, 100% of your sale will be donated to the Opera House. You may also donate directly to the committee at the Richwood Bank. You can also purchase the book, The Rich Woods of Union County: A Comprehensive History of Richwood, Ohio, which is available to purchase on Amazon, Barnes & Nobles and wherever else you get your books. All proceeds for the book sale will go directly to the Richwood Redevelopment Committee.

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