The restoration of Meridian's Grand Opera House took a major step forward Tuesday when three experts visited the site. The architect, an acoustical expert and a structural engineer met with Mississippi States project coordinator Dr. Bev Norment at the site.
Architect Tom Johnson of Washington, D.C., said he loves the structure more on each visit.
"It's a spectacular building and it's just, I think, a wonderful opportunity for downtown Meridian," said Johnson. "This is virtually a time capsule project because it was closed up for so long. It's a jewel. This will be a jewel box theatre once it's completed."
Johnson said designers are working with an internationally known company to make certain the seating and furnishings will be authentic.
"This theatre was reported to have 1,500 seats. By modern standards that could be very uncomfortable for many theatre goers," Johnson said. "As we've started to do seating studies, one of the real challenges in the theatre is the bench seats that one doesn't see at all anymore."
Johnson estimates the restored opera house will now have 1,000 seats.
"We have started the project in earnest," said Johnson. "At this point, we think we will be finished with our design work in a year, going into construction at this time next year and, hopefully, be open the year after that."
Norment said a great deal of work has been and is being done even now.
"With these fellows in, there are several different aspects that we're looking at right now, both the structural engineering and the acoustics," said Norment. "We've also had some decorative finish people in within the past couple of months, so we've got quite a number of activities that are presently going on."