Palladium Theater upgrades could be on the horizon • St Pete Catalyst

A plan to improve Hough Hall, the main 800-seat auditorium of the Palladium Theatre, is in the very early stages.

Built in 1925 as the first Church of the Scientist Christ, the location at 253 5and Avenue N. is listed on the Register of Historic Places, both locally and nationally. It is therefore out of the question to make bold changes to the building itself.

St. Petersburg College, owner of the Palladium, commissioned a study from a Tampa architectural firm to determine what needs to be done to transform a nearly 100-year-old church building never designed for live performances , in an acoustically sound performing arts venue. .

“We need to improve the theater, and we’re at the stage of trying to figure out what the next steps are now that we have this plan,” Palladium executive director Paul Wilborn said. “We are taking steps to turn Hough Hall into a real working theater and add some of the elements it never had.”

Near the top of the list, the open stage is being transformed into a true proscenium, which would give the Palladium the flexibility to “close” smaller shows and “open” larger productions.

These adjustments directly affect the sound in the room, and therefore the audience experience.

“We’re the Gin Blossoms one night, and the next night The Florida Orchestra, or chamber music,” Wilborn said. “Or a choir. Or dance. The room is very ‘live’, and it works great for classical music and things like that, but when you have a rock band in there, pounding drums, it’s kind of a noisy room. We had to be very careful with our sound.

The old seats – long the subject of public dissatisfaction – will be replaced.

John Collins, who is an advisor on Palladium’s improvement plan, spoke about the sound issue Wednesday night at the Preserve the ‘Burg Awards event. “In order to have a performing arts center of the quality that we want,” he said, “we can no longer have the sound of a motorbike coming down the street.” Photo by Mark Parker.

“No one would know the difference outside the building,” Wilborn said. “And we’re not changing the historical nature of the interior either. We are looking to soundproof the windows and have heavy curtains that can fall down and dampen the sound of a loud show.

Improvements to the parking lot and the creation of an outdoor courtyard are also under discussion.

St. Pete College and the Palladium Board of Trustees have issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) to determine what the next step will be.

Still, Wilborn insisted, there is no set timeline for other actions, from fundraising to construction to any sort of major renovation.

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