Contributed by Rodger Pille of Cincinnati Landmark Productions
This is a story about a dentist.
Dr. Larry Hagen has run his dental practice on Glenway Avenue for many years. He has seen the ebbs and flows of the West Price Hill business district. In particular, he saw the building next door to his office – the historic Covedale Cinema – go from the crown jewel of the area to an abandoned eye-sore. His patient roster slowly contracted during this time as well. Was it a coincidence? It forced Larry to consider: is this the best location for his practice? Should he move, as many others before him had, further west into the suburbs?
In 2001, he heard through the neighborhood grapevine that a performing arts group – Cincinnati Landmark Productions – was interested in the property. The group began as the venerable west side teen theatre summer program, Cincinnati Young People’s Theatre, and since 1990 had become the exclusive producer for the Showboat Majestic downtown.
Larry didn’t know too much about the group, but he appreciated the performing arts. He also knew an arts center next door to his office would be better than the other rumored buyers: a used car lot and a new Wendy’s.
Larry immediately reached out to the group to support the purchase and transformation of the building from an old two-house cinema to a 21st century performing arts center.
In 2002, after the purchase in May and three rigorous months of renovations, the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts opened. The teens performed (not coincidentally) West Side Story to sold-out houses. There was a buzz in the air. There was foot traffic and optimism on Glenway Avenue. There was a feeling of rebirth.
When Cincinnati Landmark Productions launched its theatrical season – featuring top-notch local singers, dancers, and musicians in classic musicals and comedies – later that year, Larry again reached out to the group to become a show sponsor.
Now, Larry’s patient roster is nearly full. Instead of moving his office, he has re-invested in it with extensive renovations of his own. Covedale Center patrons become his patients and tell him all about the latest shows.
This is a story about a dentist, but it’s about far more. Larry’s isn’t the only business that has seen a rebirth since the Covedale Center opened. Price Hill Chili reports 20 percent sales increases on show nights, and Meyer & Geiser Funeral Home across the street has seen an uptick in business. Both businesses have re-invested in their properties, in their words, “because of the success of the Covedale Center.”
Captain Daniel Gerard, commander of Cincinnati Police District 3, wrote in a recent letter, “I have experienced personally the added positive energy the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts brought to the West Price Hill community and seen the resulting reductions in crime and disorder.”
It’s exactly this model for neighborhood revitalization through the arts that Cincinnati Landmark Productions now takes to East Price Hill as the group is three months into construction on a brand-new facility: the Warsaw Federal Incline Theater.
This second site will allow for expansion of programming for the theater company, but, as Larry attests, the benefits will resonate far outside the walls of the theater. Helping to create a thriving business district… that’s ArtsWave in Action!