The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati is eyeing the old Emery Theatre in Over-the-Rhine as a potential new home after learning its current home – the Taft Theatre – has been put up for sale.
The children’s theater has signed on to proposals from multiple developers who want to renovate the theater inside the Emery Center building on Central Parkway near Kroger headquarters, according to Kim Kern, the children’s theater’s managing director and CEO.
“It’s by no means a done deal, but it’s incredibly appealing to us,” said Kern, whose theater now performs Downtown at the Taft on Fifth Street, near Procter & Gamble headquarters.
The children’s theater subleases space at the Taft from the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (CSO), which manages the building.
But the CSO’s lease with the local branch of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry – which owns the Taft and the Cincinnati Masonic Center next door – could be vacated if the building is sold.
Robert Dumford, executive director of the Masonic center, said the Taft and Masonic Center have been for sale for several years.
There’s a current purchase option on it by a buyer that he wouldn’t disclose. It is the second offer in several years. The first fell through. The symphony’s lease runs through 2026.
As a result, Kern said, the children’s theater is exploring other options as “Plan B.”
“If you’re in our position, and you’re looking for a new home, now is the time to do it,” she said.
Emery was home to Children’s Theater for decades
The Emery building, which was home to the children’s theater from the early 1920s to 1969, is owned by the University of Cincinnati, which began marketing the building for sale and soliciting proposals for redevelopment in April.
Responses to the university’s request for proposals are due June 25.
If the children’s theater is among the responses accepted by UC’s board of trustees, the theater will begin looking into a funding plan to restore the old theater, which could take up to two years, Kearn said.
Based on feedback from a consultant, restoring the theater would cost between $20 million and $30 million, Kern said.
The children’s theater’s participation would depend on the project qualifying for historic and other f tax credits to offset part of the cost.
“We would have to raise some funds, but that (tax credits) would be a big piece of the funding needed,” Kearn said.
The Emery building, which also was home to the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra from 1912 to 1936, was constructed in 1911 as the home of the Ohio Mechanics Institute.
UC took ownership of the building in 1969 when the trade school folded into the university. The institute was closed in 1988.
In addition to the theater, which hasn’t been used for several years, the Emery building also houses about 60 apartment units and some retail space, including the Coffee Emporium on the first floor of the building.
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