concert

Emery Center renovation underway as The Children’s Theatre plots purchase of historic concert hall

CINCINNATI — Construction on The Emery Center, one of downtown Cincinnati’s most historic buildings, could start in 2021. The Emery Center, which sits on Central Parkway between Walnut and Clay Streets, is currently made up of 59 apartments, Coffee Emporium, office space, and a long-dormant theater.

The apartments will be renovated in phases starting in January, but the theater’s $30 million renovation will take longer by up to the three and a half years, according to The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati.

“In real estate, we call it ‘bricks and mortar,’ said the building’s new co-owner, Chris Frutkin. “Well, there’s a lot of bricks and mortar in this building. It just goes on and on and on, [there are] whole rooms we had no idea existed.”

Emery Theatre from stage

Terry Helmer

The Emery Theatre will require about $30 million in renovations before it becomes the home of The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati.

Frutkin, of City Center Properties, and longtime developer Dave Neyer bought the historic building in 2019 for $8.55 million. They bought the building from the University of Cincinnati, which had owned it since 1969.

Original, handwritten building drawings came with the purchase of the Emery. The building was designed by Samuel Hannaford, the artist who designed and built both Music Hall and Cincinnati City Hall.

“These are ink on Irish linen and incredible works of art on their own,” Frutkin said. They now live in his office several blocks away on Main Street.

Emery Theatre drawings

Chris Frutkin

Original Samuel Hannaford drawings of the Emery Theatre. Provided.

The Emery Center was build in 1911 as the Ohio Mechanics Institute, a trade school that would eventually merge into UC’s applied science and engineering college.

The crown jewel of the building was the ‘acoustically pure’ theater built to house the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.

“Mary Emery allegedly said

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