Akron Civic Theatre Kicks Off Long-Awaited Renovation And Expansion In 2020

The Akron Civic Theater marquee advertises the Bowery "coming soon"
The Akron Civic Theatre marquee advertises the still-underway $42 million Bowery redevelopment project in a 2018 file photo. The 1929 theater got an extra performance space and an expanded box office as part of the construction project. [Mark Urycki / ideastream]
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The 90-year-old Akron Civic Theatre is poised to undergo a major restoration and expansion project that is expected to take the venue into the next 90 years.  

The Akron Civic Theatre will kick off a project in January tol finish work on the front of the building and in the Grand Lobby done nearly 20 years ago, while adding performance space, administrative offices and outside amenities.

The theater has raised close to 90 percent of an $8.5 million capital campaign called “Staging the Future" to complete a restoration that ended in 2002 without finishing the front of the building and Grand Lobby.

Visitors can clearly see where the restoration ended in the ornate hand-painted ceiling. According to Executive Director Howard Parr, leaving that demarcation was intentional.

“We did not anticipate in 2002 that it was going to be 17 to 18 years before we were able to finish the rest of it,” he said. “But it definitely was something we did on purpose and when you see it in the real color that it’s supposed to be it’s so much different and so much more amazing than it already is.”

A construction project nearly 20 years in the making will begin in January, restoring and expanding the Akron Civic Theatre.  [Shane Wynn / Akronstock]

Beginning in January, the project also will add a new box office and administrative offices, and restore the entry arcade.  The Knight Foundation provided $4 million toward converting the Whitelaw Building next door into a 220-seat venue for performances, events and community functions, Parr said.

In addition to the work inside, the project will also transform the outside of the Civic Theatre.

“We’re going to put up two large scale murals, one on the outside wall facing Lock 3 of the Grand Lobby, and the other on the outside wall of the Grand Lobby facing Lock 4. We’re also going to have a very large video screen,” Parr said. “What we’re trying to do there is make the outside of the building as much of an asset as the inside of the building.”

The entire project is expected to be completed by the end of next summer.

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