In an unprecedented collaboration, the City of Alma and Alma College have partnered together to raise $4.3 million toward a preliminary goal of $5 million to complete the redevelopment of the historic Alma Opera House.
When restored, the 55,000-square-foot, Italian-inspired building on the corner of Superior and State streets, originally constructed in 1879 by lumber baron Ammi Wright, will welcome students, businesses and community members for the first time in more than a generation.
Plans call for retail space on the property’s ground level and student apartments on the second and third floors. In addition, the building will feature performance, event and gathering spaces for the community, including accommodations for conferences, wedding receptions, camps and other special community-related events.
A major fire and subsequent flooding with water from firefighter hoses gutted the interior of the Opera House in 2010. Still, the National Historic Trust called it one of the best-preserved edifices in Michigan. Previous plans to redevelop the Opera House after the fire did not materialize, and ownership transferred to Alma College in December 2017.
Alma College President Jeff Abernathy: “The college and community have a shared vision of a revitalized, vibrant Opera House sparking the local economy in our downtown. The building will offer premium retail space, and there will be apartments for 40 students to live and learn in downtown Alma, driving business investment and activity.”
Alma Mayor Greg Mapes: “There hasn’t been a more important and impactful collaboration between the city and college since 1886, when local citizens convinced Presbyterians to establish their new college right here in Alma. We have another wonderful opportunity to show the rest of the nation what an exemplary partnership between a city and its college looks like.”
Alma College Vice President for Advancement Matt vandenBerg: “The philanthropic campaign for the Opera House is about returning a uniquely special resource to its community. Early support for this historic effort has been overwhelmingly enthusiastic and inspiring. Now is our moment to complete this transformative project and step on the gas pedal of progress.”