The first phase of the $15 million project to rehabilitate the Tabor Opera House continues this summer as construction crews shift focus to the building’s west-facing facade and storefront.
Phase one began in May 2020, and consists of brick and window repair on the Tabor’s south and west-facing facades. Work to the south side wrapped up in October 2020, with construction to the west starting last month. Phase one is expected to cost $1.5 million and is slated for completion in October.
“We are still in the very early stages of the project,” said Jenny Buddenborg, president of the Tabor Opera House Preservation Foundation (TOHPF). “But it’s thrilling that the effort is underway.”
The south and west-facing facades were two of the Tabor’s most damaged exterior walls until the southern wall was completed last year. Buddenborg said crumbling brickwork and damaged windows made it difficult to heat the building. Water leaks also threatened the Tabor’s historic interior.
Many such issues were addressed on the building’s south side last year, but Buddenborg said the west side will be more complicated, given its street-facing position with many large windows, columns and ornate structural details.
Buddenborg said construction crews will conduct a paint analysis to understand the original colors of the Tabor’s storefront. The building’s front columns have also sunk under the weight of the structure, and crews will work to restore them.
Funding for phase one of the project was broken down by a number of state and national grants, local government contributions and private donations. The phase is primarily being paid for by an $830,000 Department of Local Affairs grant. The National Park Service also awarded TOHPF $500,000 for the project through it’s Save America’s Treasures program. The National Main Street’s Partners in Preservation campaign raised another $150,000, and the City of Leadville contributed $20,000.
As construction continues TOHPF is raising funds for the building’s north and east-facing facades, where similar brick and window repair will continue under the project’s second phase. Repairs to the last two exterior walls are expected to cost $1.3 million.
In 2017, a feasibility study for the project estimated that the Tabor would cost about $8 million to rehabilitate. The project is currently expected to cost $15 million, but Buddenborg said the cost could be as high as $20 million once the project is complete.
Construction delays and material cost increases related to the COVID-19 pandemic are partially responsible for a hike in overall project costs. But Buddenborg said it is also difficult to estimate the cost of a project that is phased over multiple years.
Buddenborg added that TOHPF has finished an architecture and engineering plan that will guide the remainder of the rehabilitation and assess future project costs. The plan, which has been in the works since last year, cost $316,435. TOHPF is currently conducting a capital campaign to raise the remainder of the necessary funds.
The foundation will continue to seek funding from a number of sources, including state and national grants, private donations, sponsorships, and contributions from local government.
“We are going to be looking all over the place and we need the support of all those funding sources,” said Buddenborg. “Leadville and Lake County can’t support this project alone.”
Although the Tabor is not offering live performances until 2022, in-person tours are returning this year starting June 12. The tours will take place every Friday, Saturday and Sunday through Labor Day. On Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m., Leadville local Stephanie Reveles will offer tours of the opera house in Spanish.
The foundation is also hosting youth programming this summer, including a five-day workshop from June 22 through 26. The workshop, “Creating Original Theater,” will be run by Jimmy Maize and Maridee Slater, both professional theater artists from New York City. “Creating Original Theater” is free to the public and will teach youth ages 13 to 20 to write and perform.
As rehabilitation continues and programming returns to the Tabor, Buddenborg added that TOHPF is hiring an executive director in July. The foundation received more than 40 responses to the position posted in April and is interviewing a first round of candidates this week.