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St. Louis Symphony Orchestra raises more money for Powell Hall’s 2025 reopening

Construction goes underway on Wednesday, April 17, 2024, at Powell Hall in Grand Center.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
Construction proceeds on Wednesday at Powell Hall in Grand Center.

The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra is on track to return to a renovated Powell Hall in September 2025, orchestra officials said Wednesday.

Orchestra officials announced that they have raised more than $145 million of a $155 million capital campaign to pay for the project and ongoing building costs and fund a $15 million endowment. The organization also plans to expand its community outreach program that brings people from throughout the St. Louis region to Powell Hall.

“Music should be accessible for all,” President and CEO Marie-Hélène Bernard told reporters during a tour of the construction site. “We have patrons that 2 years old, we have patrons that are pushing 100 years old. It’s going to be a place where we can welcome everyone.”

Powell Hall opened in 1925 as a movie theater. It became St. Louis Symphony Orchestra’s first permanent venue in 1968. Original archways, stairwells and chandeliers stand nearly 100 years later. Snøhetta, an architecture firm based in Norway, is working with local designers to incorporate historic elements into the design.

Marie-Hélène Bernard, St. Louis Symphonic Orchestra’s President and CEO, covers her ears as construction goes underway on Wednesday, April 17, 2024, at Powell Hall in Grand Center.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
Marie-Hélène Bernard, St. Louis Symphonic Orchestra’s president and CEO, covers her ears during construction work on Wednesday outside Powell Hall.

The project, which is half-finished, will replace all of the seats in the concert hall, the bulk of which date to 1967. Among the renovations, the symphony hall's flooring has been regraded to be less steep, and several wheelchair-accessible seats will be added.

“In the past, it had one front side and three backs. If you looked at the building from anywhere, it said, ‘Don't come here,’” lead architect Craig Dykers said. “We talked to many people in the city and they said they'd like to go to the symphony, they just didn't know if they would be welcomed there because the building was relatively foreboding in many ways.”

The 65,000-square-foot contemporary expansion includes rehearsal space, a new education center and a three-story lobby.

Bernard said the renovated space will help connect more people in the community to music.

"We think that music and music should be accessible to all from as early as possible," she said. "This center will become also a space for learning."

Lauren Brennecke is a senior studying journalism and media studies at Webster University. She is a 2023-24 Newsroom Intern at St. Louis Public Radio.