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Grand Opera House, Marks-Rothenberg properties change hands

By By Steve Gillespie/The Meridian Star
Sept. 13, 2001
A major step toward downtown revitalization was expected to take place today when Mississippi State University officially obtained title to the Grand Opera House and the Marks-Rothenberg Building.
An formal announcement of the title transfer was to be made at the Riley Foundation this morning.
MSU is overseeing the $26 million project to renovate and restore the properties, converting them into the Riley Education and Performing Arts Center. Bev. R. Norment, who is coordinating the project for MSU, said in a news release today that a request for proposals from architects could be issued within the next two weeks.
Norment said the design phase of the project will take six to nine months and construction may take up to three years.
Margaret Remy, president of the board of trustees of the Grand Opera House of Mississippi Inc., said that title to the long-vacant theater was transferred to the Riley Foundation on Tuesday. The Riley Foundation, which provided the lead gift of $10 million for the project, then deeded the buildings to Mississippi State.
Other funding for the project includes $7 million the city of Meridian borrowed to build a 500-car parking garage, $3 million the county borrowed and $6 million in federal grants and appropriations.
Remy said she always knew the property had the potential of being the center of downtown revitalization. She said she appreciated the leadership of the Riley Foundation, MSU and hometown actress Sela Ward a longtime proponent of downtown revitalization.
Ward was commissioned by the opera house board and city of Meridian to narrate a video to encourage support for restoring the theater. The Meridian-born actress has continued to promote the project.
Portera said in a news release today that MSU "is pleased to have a role in this project, but it never could have come to pass without years of unremitting effort by numerous leaders and public-spirited citizens in Meridian and Lauderdale County."
Steve Gillespie is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3233, or e-mail him at