CLEVELAND - It's a site once seen as one of the nation's top music venues. The Agora Theatre will be center of revitalization efforts in Cleveland's MidTown neighborhood, thanks to a generous donation.
The 5000 Euclid Ave. building has been maintained for the past 25 years by the LoContis, who now want to continue their longstanding legacy of giving back to the community. So, they've given the historic landmark to MidTown Cleveland, Inc.
"MidTown's vision is to develop and renovate the entire neighborhood and it's going to be an exciting transition to watch," said Joseph LoConti in a news release. "We aren't just handing over a building and walking away; this is a partnership and we are really excited to contribute to the revitalization of the entire area."
Originally named the Metropolitan Theatre, the building first opened in March 1913 to a busy, vibrant area and offered grand opera, musical comedy, orchestral concerts and films.
The surrounding area slowly began to decline and the theatre eventually closed in 1975. Standing vacant for several years, the LoConti family remodeled the building and opened a new home for the already renowned Agora Theatre in 1985, after a fire destroyed the club's previous location.
Prior to establishing residence in MidTown, Henry LoConti, Sr. developed a reputation of breaking new talent into the music industry at the Agora Theatre. Artists such as Grand Funk Railroad, The Outlaws, ZZ Top, James Gang, Glass Harp and The Raspberries are just a few who achieved international prominence after performing at the Agora. Henry, along with his brother, selected the Euclid Avenue location hoping the area would be brought back to life after many businesses and residents had left.
"When we first moved the Agora to MidTown over 25 years ago, we took a calculated risk," explained Joseph LoConti. "We thought the revitalization would take place faster, but with the recent progress in the neighborhood we recognize this as the ideal time to make this donation."
Today, the area has become a hub for healthcare and technology companies and incubators, bringing resurgence to the MidTown neighborhood.
Hemingway Development will partner with MidTown Cleveland, Inc. to restore the Agora and its 50,000-square-foot adjacent office building.
"Without the donation from the LoConti family, the cost of the land and building alone would have exceeded any opportunity for redevelopment," said Fred Geis, owner of Hemingway Development. "Thanks to their generous gift, we can now leverage the Agora's rich history of creative arts and cater to the technology and digital industry, creating a connected cluster that will encourage entrepreneurial companies to take their business to the next level of success."
According to Henry LoConti, he feels this project will not only help bring the Agora back to where it was, but make it even bigger and better.
"It is important to us that the Agora will live on, but the much larger picture is changing the perception of the neighborhood, which is part of a larger initiative."