The Historic Landmarks Commission approved exterior alterations to the Liberty Theatre on Tuesday night.
The unanimous decision authorizes construction of an enclosed glass vestibule outside of the theater’s main entrance.
The Liberty is working with Harka Architecture of Portland on the project. The theater has been raising money for the project since last year.
The addition is expected to boost ticket sales, make customer flow more efficient and enhance the audience experience. Because the glass structure will seal and waterproof the area, showgoers will be protected from outdoor elements like rain and wind, and the space will be guarded from street pollution, dust and illegal activities such as vandalism.
Construction will also repurpose the existing ticket booth door and convert it to a window, which will allow for three distinct places for ticket purchase or pickup indoors.
The vestibule is expected to decrease noise pollution that enters the theater from the street and distracts performers and the audience.
“Overall, it’s going to be a real uplift to the space,” said Patrick Donaldson, the project’s principal architect.
The renovation will also re-create a historic poster display from the theater’s original design.
“It’s something the theater has needed for a long time,” said Michelle Dieffenbach, the commission’s vice president.
The glass will be clear and tint-free — despite suggestions to utilize darker glass to keep temperatures mild within the vestibule — in order to create an entry that does not obstruct the building’s historic nature. Minimal etchings will be carved on the glass for safety precautions.
“The idea of the glass,” Donaldson said, “is to be as invisible as possible.”
Commissioners had few questions and expressed their overwhelming approval for the project, expecting it to make the corner a safer place downtown.
“I was excited when I saw the plans for it,” Commissioner Katie Rathmell said. “The whole corner is going to be brighter, more friendly.”
The renovation of the entrance marks another step in the theater’s extensive restoration project, which first began in 2009. Since that time, more than $9 million has been invested.
More theater renovations have already been discussed. The approval comes at a crucial time for the theater, as lawmakers in Salem recently approved $1 million for the Liberty’s improvements.
“We had every reason to believe that the commission would be pleased with what we came up with,” said Rosemary McGrath, who serves on the theater’s building committee.
“Let’s get on going and get this sucker built.”