Grand Theater asbestos removal begins

STEUBENVILLE – A Zanesville company has started to remove asbestos-covered pipes in the Grand Theater this week as part of a 10-year rehabilitation project.

Lepi Enterprises erected scaffolding and was starting to remove the pipe work covered in asbestos for disposal at an approved landfill.

Lepi was the sole company to bid on the project.

The $49,748 contract is being paid through the Clean Ohio Revitalization Fund grant received by the city last year.

Representatves from the Ohio Department of Development Services and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency toured the theater earlier this summer.

Scott Dressel, president of Grand Theater for the Performing Arts Restoration Committee, said the asbestos- covered pipes were part of the theater’s old heating system.

“The project should last about six weeks, and all of the asbestos will be completely removed from the building. I am very glad we were able to receive the state grant to do this project and appreciate the efforts by the city and the Jefferson County Regional Planning Commission,” said Dressel.

Steubenville Urban Projects Director Chris Petrossi said the total cost of the project is $129,000.

After walking from the theater into the front lobby, Dressel said the seating and stage area will be completely sealed during the asbestos removal.

“No one will be allowed in the theater until the work is done,” stated Dressel.

That means Dressel and his team of volunteers are now looking at exterior projects for the fall.

“We have several possible work projects, but have not yet decided on what we will be doing outside,” Dressel said.

Earlier this year, the Grand board of directors chose Shaeffer & Madama of Wheeling as the official architectural firm for the restoration of the South Fourth Street structure.

“Shaeffer & Madama, along with the engineering firm previously selected – Whitney Bailey Cox and Magnani of Pittsburgh – will be doing all the architectural and engineering work to meet the code requirements of the city of Steubenville and state of Ohio, as well as the design changes desired by the Grand Theater for the Performing Arts Restoration Project Design Committee,” Dressel said.

“Our board of directors took a lot of time researching and discussing the architectural firms. And, Dennis Madama of Shaeffer & Madama is very excited about this project. We have also had the interior of the building laser scanned by the All Point firm of Pittsburgh,” said Dressel.

“At this point, we anticipate starting the $1 million restoration of the front of the theater in the summer of 2014. And, we are now planning to create an historical memory lane concept on the stairway leading to the second and third ballroom areas as well as murals throughout those two rooms,” Dressel explained.

Dressel has been leading the grassroots efforts to preserve and restore the theater since 2010.

The last remaining downtown theater was once in danger of falling victim to a wrecking ball after years of neglect and lack of repairs.

Steubenville housing officials began to investigate the structural conditions after a neighboring property owner filed a complaint on Oct. 6, 2008.

Since assuming ownership of the theater, Dressel has coordinated the sealing of the leaking roof, removal of the main floor auditorium seats and cleaning the interior of the building.

Volunteers have restored the lobby of the theater with paint and new carpeting.

“Sometimes we are too quick to tear down the old historical buildings because of their poor conditions. It will be nice to save a piece of Steubenville’s history for a change. I have never lost a project once I started a restoration. I don’t want to start now,” Dressel stated.

Visitors to the theater in 2010 saw broken seats, a water-soaked stage and falling plaster.

But, Dressel said he could look past the aging interior and see a theater once again filled with movie and stage patrons and, “the glory of the past years.”

“When I stand on the stage I actually see the theater finished in my head. In my head it is all done. I do that all the time. When I work on my restoration projects I always envision and think about everything for a long time before I actually do anything because it is art, not just structure so you really have to think your way through,” explained Dressel.

Dressel has estimated the theater restoration project will last at least 10 years.

(Gossett can be contacted at