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Culture / Newsy

Crisis For Houston Performing Arts as Wortham Theater Center Closed Until May At Least

Harvey Flooding Devastates Vital Building

BY // 09.19.17

Much like the tens of thousands of displaced homeowners whose properties were destroyed by Hurricane Harvey and won’t be habitable for many months to come, so a number of the city’s performing arts groups must seek long-term shelter as Houston First has announced that Wortham Theater Center will be closed until May “in a best case scenario.”

Damage estimates climbing well into the eight figures are the result of 12 feet of flood water that poured into the Wortham and filled the Theater District Parking Garage. While the building did not suffer structural damage, according to Houston First, extensive damage has occurred to the elevators and to at least one third of the building’s 60 air handling units.

The announcement of the long-term closure noted, “To prevent further damage, Houston First immediately retained Gilbane Reconstruction Services to begin pumping out the water and stabilizing the building.” Gilbane is continuing evaluation of the building. That initial process is expected to be completed in two to three weeks. To date, Houston First has approved $35 million for recovering Wortham, Jones Hall and the underground parking garages. “Assessment and forensics are still being done, so that is not the final price tag,” said Carolyn Campbell, Houston First director of communications. “We expect to have a more detailed report from the contractor in another 3 to 4 weeks.”

This news sends Houston Grand Opera, Houston Ballet, Da Camera, Brilliant Lecture Series and other groups scrambling for alternate performance venues. Earlier this month, many had announced substitute locations for performances through October 15. Now those calendars and performance venues must be adjusted through May. At minimum.

Weekly updates on the status of Wortham Center can be found here.

Things are looking better at Jones Hall, where air quality and structural reports are good and the building has been cleared for occupancy. But Houston First notes, “before public performances can be scheduled, accessible restrooms required by the American Disabilities Act (ADA) must be reconstructed.” Updates on Jones Hall recovery can be found here.

The courtyard level of Jones Hall and offices of the Houston Symphony, Society for the Performing Arts, and Houston First were damaged by flood waters but replacing drywall and painting are expected to begin this week. Houston First notes, “The rehearsal room, which sustained the most damage, still needs to have the floor, walls and mirrors replaced, however that work will not impact the ability to open the building to the public for performances.”

As for the Theater District parking garages, contractors have completed pumping water out and are now working to remove the silt, after which sanitization will begin. Houston First estimates that all electrical and mechanical components will beed to be replaced. Until a full assessment of repair needs are made, Houston First will have not estimate on garage reopening. Updates on the parking garages is available here.

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