A version of this article appeared in the November 2012 print issue with the headline: Opera house sings again.
St. Louis's historic Peabody Opera House, once alive with performances from the entertainment industry's best including Frank Sinatra, Count Basie and The Rolling Stones, sat vacant for nearly 20 years as group after group failed to propose a viable redevelopment plan for the property. Many people doubted whether the 75-year-old Art Deco jewel would ever be returned to its former glory. That was until the St. Louis Blues ownership group joined with Optimus Development to spearhead renovation of the iconic downtown building.
Financing for the $78.7 million restoration came from $32.6 million in bonds issued by the city's Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority, in addition to state and federal historic tax credit proceeds, federal New Markets Tax Credit equity, Brownfields Tax Incentive credits and first mortgage debt.
The updates took more than 1,300 craftsmen 14 months to complete. For the exterior, the team cleaned and tuckpointed the facade, resurfaced stairs and constructed a new entrance. Interior renovation work included adding 3,000 new seats and refurbishing the marble floors, historic paint scheme and plaster. Hundreds of light fixtures were restored or replaced with replicas to maintain historical accuracy. The building now has a modern infrastructure complete with high-speed Internet, elevators, occupancy light sensors, stage rigging, electrical controls and wiring, and LED color-shifting lighting.