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This Historic Cathedral Is Being Transformed Into A Music Hall With A Rooftop Bar

Columbus has a history of tearing down history.

From stunning mansions that used to line the streets of Downtown to iconic hotels, there’s been a harsh pattern of an “out with the old and in with the new” mentality in this city for as long as we’ve been a city. But recently, local businesses and organizations have been striving to change that pattern.

CAPA’s Commitment to Preservation

The most recent initiative comes from the Columbus Association for the Performing Arts (CAPA), a long-time supporter of historical preservation in Columbus. Their latest project involves the transformation of the former Central Presbyterian Church, a stunning Romanesque cathedral built in 1857.

A Historic Haven for Columbus

For centuries, this particular plot of land has been a place that serves and benefits the community of Columbus, and CAPA intends to continue that legacy. CAPA CEO Chad Whittington emphasizes the historical significance of churches as gathering places and envisions the renovated space as a different but still community-centric gathering place.

“We like to view churches in history as a gathering place,” explained Whittington. “And we will continue that, certainly a different kind of gathering place, but still a place to bring people together.”

Courtesy of CAPA

Renovation Plans

So what sort of transformation is on the horizon? The church will be renovated into a music hall with the ability to hold around 600 guests at a standing event and 300 guests at a seated event. One of the things Whittington loves the most about that is the flexibility it will offer for both the performers and the audience.

Preserving the Past, Embracing the Future

The church already has great bones, and the organization plans to maintain some of the breathtaking existing features, while maintaining the option to tone down some of the religious imagery if a certain performance calls for it.

The stained glass that is featured so prominently on the western wall of the church will remain. The glass, which features Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, is attributed to Ludwig Von Gerichten, a church member at Central Presbyterian and owner of the Von Gerichten Art Glass Company.

If performances aren’t vibing with the religious imagery, that’s okay, explains Whittington.

“We’ll put up drapes that you can have them open if you’re having a wedding or you’re having a concert where you want that to be visible, because it is it is a beautiful piece,” says Whittington. “But we will also have it to where you can close it if it’s not appropriate for the concert.”

The glass is seriously impressive though, and adds to the atmosphere in the cathedral-turned-music hall.

“I think standing in there, especially in the latter half of the day in the sun streaming through, it adds a lot to the building. Absolutely beautiful,” he explained.

Versatility and Flexibility: A Unique Music Hall Experience

Courtesy of CAPA

The music hall itself will be versatile, allowing for a variety of performance styles, from traditional stage performances to theatre in the round. In addition to the hall, CAPA plans to transform the surface lot just south of the building into a two-story support space.

There, visitors will find the restrooms and dressing rooms, alongside a bar area that includes a rooftop option. Which is a needed addition to this section of downtown.

“Think about people come in here to the Ohio (Theatre), that come to see a Broadway show. This gives them some place to go afterwards. We’re excited about that,” says Whittington. “So this is about being a great entertainment venue, it’s also about creating activity downtown. And we expect to do that with that kind of regular presence, you know, at least five days a week, maybe six having having the bar space opening and creating activity down here.”

Renderings courtesy of CAPA
Renderings courtesy of CAPA

The additional spaces will also give CAPA the versatility to bring in more artists, like a solo performer or small group performance in the bar while larger performances are occurring in the main auditorium.

Financial Aspects and Project Timeline

Overall, the project is expected to cost around $14 million, and although they haven’t reached that goal yet, Chad is hopeful that construction can begin as early as this summer. Once they get started, they expect to open about two years later, with the venue up and running by 2026.

“I think, to me, that’s the most exciting thing when you combine the flexibility of the space with the fact that it is going to be a fantastic place to see an act,” Whittington shares. “It’s gonna have great sound, it’s beautiful to stand in there, you can do some things with lighting that just make it absolutely fantastic. That’s exciting. I think that’s important.”

After all of that, I’m sure you’re wondering what this new, fantastic space will be called. Well, you’ll have to wonder a little longer. Once all of the funding is secured, a name will be announced for the project.

Featured image via Franklin County Auditor