By Jim Krencik
Medina Journal-Register — MEDINA — The Orleans Renaissance Group’s work towards restoring Bent’s Hall has largely been behind the scenes — acquiring grants, organizing musical events and raising awareness about the project. But board members are optimistic that the first signs of physical progress at the historic Medina opera house will soon be visible.
ORG Treasurer Andrew Meier told renaissance group board members Wednesday that some of the funds received by the group could be put towards demolition work at the first-floor storefront. By removing the precast archways, Meier said ORG would reveal the cast iron that was original to the building.
“It would send a strong indication to the community that things are happening,” Meier said. “We’ll be able to see what we have to work with.”
Renaissance Group Vice President Chris Busch said that the work would allow ORG to better market the historic appeal of the first-floor business space.
”After the roof, the facade is the next biggest thing,” said Busch, who hinted that additional “dressing up” of Bent’s Hall will be done in advance of Olde Tyme Christmas.
The renaissance group’s board met Wednesday at the Shirt Factory Cafe to discuss both areas of progress and a series of events planned to raise funding for the reconstruction of the 1860s theatre. Chief among the highlights were a series of funding streams either realized or close at hand.
According to Meier, a $2,000 grant from the Preservation League of New York, which earlier this year designated Bent’s Hall as a “Seven to Save” project, will allow the renaissance group to engage Bero Architecture PLLC of Rochester for an engineering review.
Meier said that John Bero, whose firm specializes in historic preservation, will tour the opera house and meet with board members Friday as part of a review of ORG’s plans. He would assist the group in making their plan meet state building codes.
“(The review) would identify any issues and help us to make adjustments,” Meier said. “It also get a well-respected architecture firm acquainted with our project.”
ORG has also received a $20,000 matching grant from the Bruce T. Williams Family Foundation for the restoration project, which Meier said exceeds a pledge made by the foundation. The grant has been put towards work already done at Bent’s Hall. A $1,500 grant awarded by the Orleans County Foundation will go towards a video promoting a 2013 capital campaign, Meier said.
Bridgette Yaxley, ORG’s grant writing administrator said ORG is also pursing for $500,000 from the Environmental Protection Fund’s Consolidated Funding Application and a $9,000 grant from the Erie Canalway National Heritage Coordinator to help fund the engineering review.
”Things moved along very well this summer,” Meier said. “We have (multiple) major grants in hand or in the fire.”
A grant request has also been made to GO-Art! to help towards the costs of hosting ORG’s spring fundraising concert. The April 4 concert by the Anonymous 4 highlights a series of planned events, beginning with The Easy Street Big Band’s Dec. 6 performance at the United Methodist Church, 222 W. Center St.
Tickets for the Dec. 6 show, which Busch said will feature a combination of Christmas and big band music, cost $10 for individuals and $20 for families and can be purchased at eggstreet.org.