The Met: Former North Broad opera house will open as new concert venue in December

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Artist's rendering of Metropolitan Opera House at 858 N. Broad St. following renovations. Credit: Atkin Olshin Schade Architects

North Broad Street’s Metropolitan Opera House will open for business as a concert venue in December.

Last year, concert promoter Live Nation announced it had entered a partnership with developer Eric Blumenfeld — who’s also behind the revival of North Broad’s fabled Divine Lorraine — to renovate and reopen the Met, which takes up a full city block at Broad and Poplar Streets, and which was built in 1908 by impresario Oscar Hammerstein I.

The price tag of the project is $56 million, up from the original $45 million announced in May 2017.  But if the partners didn’t meet their cost estimate, they have remained on schedule, holding to the promise of presenting shows at the 3,500-capacity venue before the close of this year.

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The announcement about the opening of the vast, ornate building, which has 110-foot ceilings and which has been on the National Register of Historic places since 1972, was accompanied by a slickly produced video on TheMetPhilly.com that framed the revival of the 110,000-square-foot opera house as a narrative befitting “a city of stories about brotherly love, determination, underdog, survival.”

In addition to hard-hat workers transforming the building, the clip shows Mummer-suited Eagles center Jason Kelce, appearing on cue to the word underdog. And, for sure, the revival of the Met seemed highly unlikely for decades. The venue with a stage big enough to hold a basketball court was a little-used beautiful ruin for decades, largely unoccupied since the 1980s.  “It’s a glorious old building that had been neglected,”  Blumenthal said last year, “that anyone with any intelligence would tell you to tear down.”

No acts have yet been announced for the opening of the Met, which presumably could host multiple-night performances by comedians such as Kevin Hart as well as jammy rock bands and electronic dance acts. Along with Blumenthal,  the Rev. Mark Hatcher, leader of the Holy Ghost church  —  the building’s most recent inhabitant —  also owns a stake in the building and church services will still be held there after it reopens.

The Met contains many smaller rooms potentially available as lounges or performance spaces. Its capacious main theater will be able to be adapted for seated and standing-only general admission performances. Bob Weir — who  officiated at Live Nation head Geoff Gordon’s wedding at the Tower Theater in Upper Darby in 2016 — and other Grateful Dead members are investors.

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In terms of capacity, the Met will hold 3,500, slightly larger and likely to be a good deal more posh than the many mid-size rooms in and around Philadelphia, such as the Fillmore, Electric Factory, Academy of Music, and Tower, each of which holds approximately 2,500. Union Transfer, the Trocadero, the TLA, and the Keswick in Glenside are all in the 1,000-capacity range.

The Met could be ideally suited for young acts such as Lana Del Rey, Arcade Fire, and Lorde, who have recently played to half-full houses at the Wells Fargo Center but who could easily sell out a 3,500-seat venue.

In an interview last year, Gordon said he wasn’t concerned about having too many venues and a  shortage of shows,  not with Center City continuing to grow with new job-creating developments, like the opening of the Comcast Technology Center skyscraper, due later this year. “Philadelphia,” he said, “couldn’t be hotter.”