The new tenants of Tom Atha’s Church Street development, Thirty One West, could not contain their enthusiasm during Thursday’s announcement of the plans for the long-vacant downtown building constructed in 1902.
“I hope this place becomes a magnet,” Denison University President Adam Weinberg told those gathered in the second floor ballroom for the announcement. “I hope it’s a place that brings people from Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati. I hope we’re part of a revival of the arts. I hope it’s an economic driver that benefits all entrepreneurs doing exciting things downtown.”
The tenants for the development, which opens mostly in the fall, will be The Ballroom at Thirty One West, Moe’s Original Bar B Que, Sage Yoga Studio, Little Arrows Play Cafe and Denison Artspace.
Weinberg praised Atha for his work in bringing the entire project together, and he wanted to make sure people know where he attended college.
“We’d love to tattoo Denison on his forehead,” Weinberg said. “What you’re doing here represents Denison at its finest, so thank you.”
Denison will occupy the first floor space on the right side when entering the building. It will be a combination of an art gallery and music teaching studios.
Andy Carlson, professor of music at Denison, and Casey Cook, co-director of Denison’s Bluegrass Program, will give private lessons in the two studios. They will teach the fiddle, banjo, guitar, bass and mandolin. The art gallery will show the work of Denison students and that of local and regional artists.
“Our vision for the space is to be multiuse, with arts at the center,” Carlson said. “We wanted to have a presence in downtown Newark.
“Getting into the ballroom space today and seeing how far it’s come along, that’s going to be a tremendous space. We’re hoping to have our students perform in the ballroom.”
Atha said he credits a woman who stopped by construction on his Earthwork Recording Studio downtown when it was under construction. He said the woman wanted more than just a music studio.
“I could see the disappointment in her face,” Atha said. “She said what the town really needs is a music venue. That voice that stopped me during construction came back in my mind. We found other partners who shared in the vision in this project for music, for the arts.”
Alex Miller, co-founder of Allegro Group with Atha, said the ballroom will seat 175 people, and allow 500 occupants total. It also will be a place for bands to play privately, and videos of the performances will be released.
“We want Newark recognized as a progressive artistic town,” Miller said. “We want to give Newark a ‘something-to-do’ reputation.”
Moe’s owner Kara Gallagher; Sage Yoga owner Kelli Cramer; and Dave Warner, associate pastor at Marne United Methodist Church and owner of Little Arrows Play Cafe, all said they can’t wait for the building to open.
“As a kid, downtown Newark was where it was at,” Gallagher said. “We’re so proud to be coming here. It’s my home, and it’s so great to see it come alive.”
Cramer said: “I’m a little emotional now, seeing everyone here. Knowing you’re exactly where you need to be is just awe-inspiring.”
Warner said Little Arrows will provide ongoing life skills for adults, a play area for children younger than age 7 and a reserved space for special needs children.