$78 million renovation expected for St. Louis Kiel Opera House

Saturday, June 26, 2010 | 6:32 p.m. CDT

ST. LOUIS — The Kiel Opera House, which has been unused for almost 20 years, is scheduled to undergo a $78 million renovation.

Barbara Geisman, deputy St. Louis mayor for development, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Friday that bond sales last week to finance the project should seal the deal. Transfer of the bond proceeds is scheduled for Tuesday.

"The proposed renovation of the Kiel Opera House took a big step forward," she said. "Many agreements related to private debt and equity financing needed for the development have been substantively completed. The project is close but not assured quite yet."

But Stacy Hastie, president and chief executive of Environmental Operations, Inc., told the Post-Dispatch that work would begin within days on asbestos and lead paint removal.

A spokesman for David Checketts, whose SCP Worldwide is spearheading the Kiel project, declined comment Friday.

The city-owned Kiel Opera House was completed in 1934, but has been closed since 1991. For many years, the opera house was home to the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and the venue for many ballets, operas and concerts.

It's unclear when the renovated opera house would reopen.

The Kiel's main theater seats 3,200 people. The facility also contains smaller theaters that will have seating capacities ranging from 300 to 500 people for banquets and other events, and is expected to host concerts, touring Broadway productions and other shows.

The only opposition to the city-backed financing plan, approved last year, came from alderwoman Marlene Davis, who complained about the speed with which the city approved the deal. Davis' ward includes the Fox Theatre, whose owners criticized city financing for Kiel and said it would mean competition for traveling Broadway shows.

SCP Worldwide agreed to limit the number of traveling theater productions at the new Kiel during its first five years.

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