Auburn company wins Opera House restoration contract

Posted Aug. 24, 2012, at 11:53 a.m.

NORWAY, Maine — An Auburn company has been awarded the contract for the $1.1 million rehabilitation of the first floor of the 1894 Opera House on Main Street in Norway.

H. E. Callahan Construction was awarded the project at a meeting in the office of Dennis Lachman Architects and Planners in Portland on Wednesday. H.E. Callahan put in the low bid of $889,000, Norway Opera House Corp. member Bruce Cook said.

Two other bidders, Ganneston Construction Corp. of Augusta, and Great Falls Builders in Gorham, put in bids ranging from $903,000 to about $945,000, Cook said.

“The bids came in a tad higher than we had hoped,” he said. “We had some wiggle room in the bid process so we’re working with the low bidder.”

Cook said the contractor has been asked to see if some of the costs from the subcontractors such as demolition or renovation can be reduced to lower the overall amount.

The contract award was for the rehabilitation of the six, first-floor storefronts. Each will be made energy efficient with updated bathrooms, basement storage and other amenities.

A separate bid is also expected to be opened in the next week or two, Cook said. It will be for the restoration of the back wall, which was reinforced last year. At that time thousands of original bricks were taken off the wall and replaced with a brick-like facade. The original bricks have been stored in the basement of the Opera House but the work will only be done if bids come in low enough and there is enough money available after the storefront renovation.

Cook said he expects the contractor to start work after Labor Day and take 20 to 24 weeks.

The contractor will be working under guidelines set by the National Parks Service, which regulates buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places using historic tax credits.

The Opera House is part of the Norway downtown historic district. The three-story brick edifice was the center of community activities for decades and had a succession of private owners. After a partial roof collapse in September 2007 the town took ownership by eminent domain, because the damaged building was deemed a public hazard. Its three stories are topped with a clock tower.

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