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Last updated 9:52PM ET
March 5, 2021
APR News Reports
APR News Reports
Greensboro Hopes For Downtown Rebirth - w/ video
(2007-02-22)
The 1904 Greensboro Opera House could be a key to revitalizing downtown Greensboro
(APR - Alabama Public Radio ) - Alabama cities continue to embrace the relationship between restoring cultural resources and improving downtown economies. In this report, we'll visit two cities working with this idea ... Greensboro and Tuscaloosa. Alabama Public Radio's Brett Tannehill files this audio and video report ...

NOTE-to see video, click on Windows icon ... to hear audio, click on MP3 icon

Freezing temperatures in downtown Tuscaloosa can't stop a night of the blues at the Bama Theatre.

(fade in NS-ticket booth - "Hi. just one? That will be $15 )

Inside ... the lobby is warm with fresh popcorn and spirits. It's another good crowd ... for the Bama ... and also for downtown businesses that saw a little extra bump in sales. This one-time home of city hall was at one time abandoned, before being restored and converted into a performing arts center in 1976 by the Arts Council of Tuscaloosa. Executive director Pam Penick says the renovation has anchored downtown growth.

Penick- "There's all sort of restaurants and bars, art galleries, restaurants ... It's incredible what has happened in the past 25 years. ?reporter question?Do you see the same thing happening in Greensboro?? I do, I do think it will happen in Greensboro. Greensboro is really a very artsy little town and has very interesting history."

It's a history tied to Tuscaloosa and the Bama Theatre, literally, by Greensboro Ave. The Bama still sits on the historic route that once connected the two cities. 40 miles to south Greensboro was established in 1812, and is home to one of Alabama's oldest streetscapes. A key building is the Greensboro Opera House, built in 1904 by Jefferies Blount. The three story building was converted into a movie theatre before being closed and sealed in the 1930s ... a sign of changing times for the once vibrant and scenic downtown area. Hale County District Judge Sonny Ryan is chair of Greensboro Opera House Incorporated, owner of the ailing structure.

(fade in sound of climbing stairs)

Ryan - "these are not stairs these are steps so be very careful")

The steps wind up past old heating and water pipes, through areas of construction ... toward what could be a spark of new life for Greensboro. On the second floor, the makeshift steps open into an ornately trimmed auditorium. A low balcony is set against the rear wall. The ceiling is made of decorative pressed tin. A chandelier that used to hang there now sits, mostly intact, amongst a dusty and cluttered stage. The room is checkered with torn wallpaper and broken sheet rock.

Ryan - "a ballpark figure in may mind is probably take at least 2.5 million dollars to put this place back together the way it should be. As you can see there is beautiful woodwork, and the wood alone is pretty special ... but there's a lot to do."

A lot to do, but also a lot to work with. Board member Nick Cobbs says the opera house is worth saving.

Cobbs - "Everyone in this community who had any sense of history knew the Greensboro Opera House was a historic structure with nothing really comparable in this part of Alabama ... If we can put it in operation as a performing arts center it will have a dramatic economic impact on Greensboro and the county."

And that would be good for a community trying to retain its young residents while also attracting new ones. Hale County currently has virtually no population growth ... a meager point-2 percent increase between 2000 and 2005.

Back in Tuscaloosa at the Bama Theatre, Willie King is on stage ... or rather off stage playing and strutting through the crowd. A similar success in Greensboro will take time ... it could take 3 years to make significant progress. The Greensboro Opera House next will undergo a full structural assessment. There will also be more community fund raisers. Alabama's only other known surviving opera house is in Fort Payne ... Landmarks Opera House built in 1889.

For more information about the Greensboro Opera House contact ...
Greensboro Opera House Incorporated
4204 Millwood Rd.
Greensboro AL 36744
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