The Detroit Symphony Orchestra Hall was the first grand-scale restoration project conducted in Downtown Detroit. Dedicated in 1919, Orchestra Hall formerly served as the home of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. In 1939, when the orchestra moved to the Masonic Temple Theatre, the facility was occupied by the Paradise Theatre, one of the nation’s most famous stages for African-American musicians.
In the late 1950s, the building was abandoned and had fallen into disrepair. In 1964, it was headed for the wrecking ball, but local citizens rallied to save the great concert hall. These volunteers founded Save Orchestra Hall, Inc., to marshall citizen report for the retention and restoration of the building to its former architectural grandeur.
D.J. Maltese was selected as the construction manager who would restore this landmark to it’s original beauty. In the summer of 1993, phase II was completed, capping a multi-million dollar restoration effort.
Phase I of the project was completed with restoration work valued at more than $5.3 million. The work included restoration of the original box seating, reconfiguration of the box office, completion of the decorative painting of the outer ticket and inner oval lobbies, installation of new stage and aisle lighting and railings, improvements to the backstage and orchestra pit areas, and expansion of the restroom facilities. Phase II was valued at $1.5 million, bringing the total renovation cost to $6.8 million.
“The Gears that Saved Orchestra Hall”
Orchestra Hall was in trouble. It needed a cost-effective solution to a very serious problem. The screw gear stage lift was broken and the next performance season was only a few months away. The Owners had contacted several elevator companies to repair the lift. All of them proposed to replace the current lift with a newer hydraulic lift for several hundreds of thousands of dollars. None of them would fix the older gear lift.
The Owner’s concern for the lift was twofold. First, the cost of the newer lift was astronomical and a real financial burden. Second, the concern of changing to a hydraulic system would require more and costly maintenance – further, it would be too noisy for the Orchestra’s performances.
D.J. Maltese was called in to see if the lift could be repaired. Within one week, we proposed a solution, a cost within their budget, and a schedule to meet with the Owner’s objectives. The project was completed with new parts and re-tooled parts, and at a fraction of the cost of a new system. A very cost-effective, intuitive solution to the Orchestra’s problem. An affordable solution that kept the Orchestra on track for the next season’s performance was offered and executed by D.J. Maltese.