Emery Theatre to Reopen as Home of The Cincinnati Children's Theatre After City Council Approves TIF

The Emery Theatre's deep history will gain a new chapter thanks to $1 million in TIF funds.

Jan 12, 2023 at 11:41 am
click to enlarge Reports suggest the restoration of the Emery Theatre could be completed as early as October 2024. - Photo: Provided by American Legacy Tours
Photo: Provided by American Legacy Tours
Reports suggest the restoration of the Emery Theatre could be completed as early as October 2024.

The Emery Theatre will reopen as the new home of The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati (TCT), thanks to funds from Cincinnati City Council.

Council unanimously approved an ordinance on Jan. 11 appropriating $1 million in TIF funds to the city’s Downtown OTR East Equivalent Fund “for the purpose of providing resources to assist with the acquisition and renovation of the Emery Theatre,” according to the ordinance language.

The 2,200-seat theatre located at 1112 Walnut St. and 100 East Central Pkwy in Over-the-Rhine opened in January of 1912. It was considered one of only four “acoustically perfect” concert halls in the country, playing host to the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, George Gershwin’s classical composition “Rhapsody in Blue,” and The Boone County Jamboree, an American Country Radio Program. The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. also spoke at the Emery in 1959 while campaigning for Ted Berry’s run for Cincinnati City Council.

The venue has also played host to local haunted tour company American Legacy Tours.

click to enlarge The Emery Theatre in the 1940s. - Photo: CityBeat archives
Photo: CityBeat archives
The Emery Theatre in the 1940s.

During revitalization efforts from The Requiem Project in 2011, the Emery held film festivals, recording sessions and concerts from The National, Dirty Projectors, Carrie Rodriguez and Ralph Stanley. In January 2015, The Requiem Project filed a lawsuit against the University of Cincinnati over the right to renovate the long-neglected theatre. The Requiem Project eventually settled the suit in March 2016, and the UC board of trustees voted to sell the Emery to local developers for $8.55 million in 2019, saying that the theater was beyond repair.

The Children's Theatre embarked on a fundraising campaign, “A Crown for the Queen City,” to repair the Emery in 2022, reportedly raising 50% of the $48 million needed to cover the Emery’s repairs.

“With The Emery as its home, TCT will fill a critical void left by the diminishing availability of arts education. TCT provides young audiences with the space to experience theatre as entertainment, and the profound impact of theatre to teach and inspire,” TCT’s website reads.

TCT could not be reached by press time, but media reports suggest the restoration project could be completed as early as October 2024.

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