St. Louis Symphony Orchestra announces renovation and expansion plans for its home, Powell Hall

Project will create a community-focused music center of the future and enhance the audience and artist experience

(March 16, 2022, St. Louis, MO) – Today, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra announced renovation and expansion plans for its concert venue, Powell Hall—the first major renovation project at the historic Grand Center building since it became the SLSO’s permanent home in 1968. The renovation and 65,000-square-foot expansion—estimated at more than $100 million and led by Snøhetta in collaboration with Christner Architects, theater consultants Schuler Shook, acousticians Kirkegaard, and BSI Constructors—will transform the 1925 building into a vibrant and accessible music center for the entire community. Powell Hall, originally named the St. Louis Theatre, was erected as a movie theater in 1925 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2001. Primary project goals include fostering innovation and greater community connections through the creation of a music center, enhancing the audience and artist experience, and modernizing the venue while preserving its historic character.

Working collaboratively with the City of St. Louis Cultural Resources Office, the project will appear for review before the city’s Preservation Board at its next meeting.

Expansion to create a state-of-the-art music center for the community
The cornerstone of the project is a 65,000-square-foot expansion that includes:
• A new 3,400-square foot education and learning center that will serve as a rehearsal venue for the St. Louis Symphony Chorus, IN UNISON Chorus, and St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra, and provide a space for education programs, lectures, and events. The center will serve as a platform for partnerships and collaborations to flourish—engaging, inspiring, and uniting the region’s residents as part of the SLSO’s vibrant community and education programs that include more than 300 performances and events a year.
• A new lobby with accessible, welcoming, and updated amenities, including the addition of concession areas, coat check, elevators, and restrooms, connecting Powell Hall to the new backstage area and education and learning center.
• A backstage space with expanded amenities for artists including new lounges, dressing rooms, practice spaces, instrument storage, a new music library, and media and recording suites. The backstage expansion will help ensure that Powell Hall remains a destination for the SLSO’s many celebrated artistic collaborators.

Renovation to enhance the artistic and audience experience
Powell Hall is one of America’s most acoustically remarkable and visually stunning concert halls. The renovation will improve safety, accessibility, and comfort, and will help ensure that it remains a treasured civic icon for generations to come by:
• Improving existing entrances and adding new ones, making Powell Hall more welcoming for all Grand Center neighbors and visitors.
• Establishing and nurturing beautiful outdoor green spaces.
• Enhancing the listening experience in orchestra level seating and reducing external noise through soundproofing and isolation measures, as well as protecting and preserving the acoustics throughout the venue.
• Reducing the auditorium’s capacity from 2,683 to 2,150 seats, creating a more intimate audience experience, featuring larger seats and additional leg room to increase comfort and improve accessibility.
• Creating an ADA-accessible venue with additional seating, and improving the safety of the auditorium by adding handrails and three elevators.
• Adding amenities including restrooms, concessions, and open gathering spaces, and improving parking areas and adding safer and accessible drop-off locations.
• Installing a state-of-the-art lighting system, improving building infrastructure and the efficiency of existing building systems.

Striving to create a true center for music and the arts in the region, the renovation will make Powell Hall more functional and enjoyable for all. The project will also allow the SLSO to realize a higher level of operational efficiency, while also broadening and deepening community connections and collaborations.

Marie-Hélène Bernard, St. Louis Symphony Orchestra President and CEO, said, “This is an exciting chapter in the SLSO’s history. The project will improve every aspect of the audience and artist experience and will better support our mission as performers and educators, enriching lives through the power of music and fostering a sense of belonging for everyone. We will preserve the history of Powell Hall while also creating a hub for community, innovation, and powerful music experiences.”

Steve Finerty, Chair of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra Board of Trustees, said, “The renovation and expansion of Powell Hall will fortify the SLSO’s position as an economic engine for the region, which already triggers $100 million of economic activity each year. St. Louis is experiencing a renaissance of investment and innovation, and the SLSO is delighted to be a part of this trajectory, supporting St. Louis’ reputation as an extraordinary place to live with one of our nation’s most established and thriving cultural and arts scenes.”

Stéphane Denève, Music Director of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, said, “Ever since I first collaborated with our fabulous orchestra almost 20 years ago, I have been amazed by Powell Hall’s incredibly warm acoustics, its distinct sound depth. This great venue has a unique character and I always feel its beautiful soul while rehearsing or performing on stage. I am so excited by the renovation and expansion of our home. It will enhance all we love about Powell Hall, and I can’t wait to engage with our wonderful community in a space that is even more welcoming for all.”

The project is guided by a Task Force of SLSO trustees, musicians, staff, and advisors under the leadership of SLSO Trustee Emily Rauh Pulitzer. Anna Leavey is the Project Manager. In addition to lead architectural firm Snøhetta, the project design team includes local minority- and woman-owned firms and several industry-leading companies:
• St. Louis-based Christner Architects, a woman-owned architectural design firm, as the architect of record.
• Chicago-based Schuler Shook as the theatre planning consultant.
• St. Louis-based BSI Constructors as the project’s construction manager.
• Chicago-based Kirkegaard as the project’s acoustics design firm.

For more information about the Powell Hall renovation and expansion and a complete list of consultants, visit

About Powell Hall
Originally built in 1925, the St. Louis Theatre was a movie palace and vaudeville playhouse. Prior to Powell Hall, the SLSO did not have a permanent home, performing at various venues throughout St. Louis. The SLSO first performed at the St. Louis Theatre in 1965, as it was searching for a permanent home. Immediately impressed by its remarkable acoustics, the SLSO purchased and renovated the theater, thanks to the leadership and support of St. Louis Symphony Society Presidents Oscar Johnson, Jr., and Stanley Goodman, plus a generous gift from Helen Lamb Powell in honor of her late husband, Walter. The SLSO opened the new Powell Hall and established residence in January 1968. Powell Hall has been a cornerstone of the Grand Center Arts District Redevelopment Project. The renovation and expansion of Powell Hall is part of decades-long urban development in housing; hotels; schools; and visual, media, and performing arts facilities. Other significant projects in the community include the City Foundry STL, the new National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency campus, the Brickline Greenway, the construction of Centene Stadium for the St. Louis CITY SC soccer team, and much more.

About the Project Team
Snøhetta serves as the project lead and design architect. The team, based out of Snøhetta’s New York office, includes Founder and Principal Craig Dykers, Principal in Charge Alan Gordon, and Project Manager Takeshi Tornier. Snøhetta has become an internationally renowned practice of architecture, landscape architecture, interior architecture, and product and graphic design, with more than 240 employees from 32 different nations. Recent theater projects include the new Norwegian National Opera and Ballet and the Shanghai Grand Opera House.

Christner Architects is a St. Louis-based architectural design firm, recognized for thoughtful and collaborative designs for cultural, education, healthcare, and corporate clients. Managing Principals Jeff Ryan and Stacey Wehe will lead the Christner team. Founder Ted Christner was the force behind some of the most iconic projects in St. Louis, including restoring the Jewel Box in Forest Park. Christner’s recent award-winning projects include the Center of Creative Arts renovation and expansion, Stephen and Peter Sachs Museum at the Missouri Botanical Garden, Rung for Women non-profit headquarters, and Donald Danforth Plant Science Center. A women-owned business, Christner Architects will serve as the local lead on the project and the architect of record.

Schuler Shook is an internationally recognized design firm that has earned a reputation for theatre planning and architectural lighting design excellence. Based in Chicago, it has extensive experience in planning performing arts facilities and designing architectural lighting. For more than 35 years, Schuler Shook has created and renovated performance spaces that work for audiences and artists, including the Cincinnati Music Hall, the Pritzker Music Pavilion in Chicago’s Millennium Park, and the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Partner Todd Hensley will lead the Schuler Shook team.

BSI Constructors serves as Construction Manager for the project. BSI is a St. Louis based, family-owned firm founded in 1972 and known for its work on iconic historic structures like the St. Louis Central Library, Soldiers Memorial Military Museum, the Old Post Office, the Chase Park Plaza, the Climatron, Hotel Saint Louis, and the Missouri History Museum. BSI’s previous Grand Center work includes the Pulitzer Arts Foundation, the Coronado, the Steward Center for Jazz, and the Fox Theatre parking garage. BSI also provided full preconstruction services for CityArchRiver and recently completed the Kirkwood Performing Arts Center. BSI is responsible for cost estimating, value/ constructability analysis, life cycle analysis, logistical planning, and onsite construction execution including coordination of the SLSO DBE/WBE/MBE goals.

Kirkegaard is an Architectural Acoustics and Integrated Systems Consulting firm founded in 1976 and based in Chicago with an office in St. Louis. It has worked with a variety of arts organizations and has expertise with orchestras and classical music spaces, having worked on projects including the renovations of San Francisco’s Davies Symphony Hall and Chicago Symphony Center along with Tanglewood’s Ozawa Hall and the Linde Center; and the Music Center at Strathmore. The team includes President and St. Louis native Brian Corry, Principal Consultant Joseph Myers, and Consultant Kaitlyn Hunt.

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Eric Dundon

Public Relations Director