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Thursday, September 7, 2017

Peter E. Koenig, Active Lawyer and Civic Volunteer, Concentrates on Preservation of Music Hall

Music Hall renovation rendering 

By Laura A. Hobson

Active with his law practice, Peter E. Koenig also contributes his expertise to several local nonprofits. On the top of his list now is the Society for the Preservation of Music Hall (SPMH), for which he has served as president since 2015, and a member of the board since 2007. SPMH is actively involved in the restoration of Music Hall, reopening October 6 – 7 with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Under the direction of Maestro Louis Langree, the CSO performs pieces by John Adams, Beethoven, Jonathan Bailey Holland in a world premiere, and Scriabin. CSO opening night on October 6 celebrates with dinner in the restored Corbett Tower. A Community Open House is October 7 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. with free tours.

A Hyde Park resident for over 30 years, Koenig is a shareholder, vice president and member of the Board of Directors of Buechner Haffer Meyers & Koenig where he practices complex civil litigation, zoning and real estate matters in addition to probate and trusts.
Peter Koenig and wife Lucy Hodgson by the Kilgour Fountain on Hyde Park Square (photo by Laura Hobson)

Before joining the firm in 1996, Koenig practiced at Barrett & Weber from 1990 to 1996 as well as Strauss & Troy from 1986 to 1990. He was admitted to the bar in 1981 after successfully completing his J.D. from Case Western Reserve University the same year. His legal rating by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory from June 1994 to the present is AV, which “reflects an attorney who has reached the heights of professional excellence, has usually practiced law for many years and is recognized for the highest levels of skill and integrity.”
Koenig said a dual major in economics and philosophy from Ohio University prepared him for a legal profession after considering medicine and the priesthood.

Other civic organizations in which Koenig participates include Music Hall Revitalization Company (Board of Trustees since 2015), Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (Board of Trustees since fall 2016), Cincinnati Opera (Board of Trustees since spring 2016), Memorial Hall Society (Board of Trustees since 2012) among others. Additional affiliations include Cincinnatus Association, Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, University Club and Cincinnati Country Club.
To say that Koenig is busy is an understatement. Committed to the city, in particular the arts, Koenig keeps an active schedule, often working 50 to 60 hours per week.

Lobby renovation rendering 

He wasn’t always as busy. In 2004, his wife Susan Hilmer died. That left Koenig a single parent raising two children, twins Julie Louise Koenig and David Oliver Koenig. He cut back on his civic activities until they graduated from Seven Hills School, where he participated in the Middle and Upper School Parent Associations. His daughter is a 2018 physician candidate at Stanford University. His son graduated from the United States Naval Academy with a B.S. in Oceanography in 2014.

Koenig returned to civic activities once his children were adults. In 2014, he married Lucy Hodgson, who has a degree in politics, philosophy and economics from Oxford University in England. She worked in global communications for Procter & Gamble in Brussels and Cincinnati before starting her own local consulting business a few years ago. They both enjoy the opera. Koenig also likes squash, tennis, theater and historic conservation.

It was over 40 years ago that philanthropists J. Ralph and Patricia Corbett led the last extensive renovation of Music Hall. Now, it is undergoing another one. The building’s mechanical systems (including electrical, plumbing, fire suppression, air conditioning and heating) all were operating on borrowed time – well beyond their life expectancy, according to SPMH’s website.

Music Hall is the home of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, Cincinnati May Festival, Cincinnati Ballet, SPMH, Cincinnati Arts Association and Cincinnati Opera, resident companies which have worked with 3CDC and Music Hall Revitalization Committee on this project.

Peter Koenig; Otto M. Budig, Jr., board president, Music Hall Revitalization Company; Stephen G. Leeper, president and chief executive officer, 3CDC.

Music Hall Revitalization Committee was formed in 2010. While the City of Cincinnati owns Music Hall, MHRC has a 75-year lease on the hall with the city. It hired 3CDC to manage the renovation.

After several public forums were held in 2012, the decision to return three chandeliers, once removed for cleaning, was made. Originally in the lobby, the restored and revived chandeliers will have a home in Corbett Tower. In addition, the large chandelier in Springer Auditorium was sent to St. Louis for cleaning and will be reinstalled.

PWWG, (Perfido, Weiskopf, Wagstaff + Goettel), one of the nation’s leading architecture firms in historic rehabilitation and adaptive reuse, was chosen. In addition, the design team includes Martinez + Johnson, an architecture firm which specializes in performing arts venues; acoustician Akustiks, and Schuler Shook, which provides theater planning and lighting design. Messer Construction acts as general contractor. Cost of the renovation project is $135 million. SPMH contributed $4 million and the city $16 million. In addition, the Ohio Development Services Agency awarded a $25 million tax credit for renovation. The building infrastructure will comply with the Americans for Disabilities Act.

Springer Hall renovation rendering
Changes made to Music Hall include a refreshed exterior, unblocked windows, renovated Springer Auditorium with new and more comfortable seats, improved disability access, new practice rooms, new dressing rooms, new event space on the first floor, expanded restrooms and concessions, new accent lighting at Music Hall at night, and new greenery in the outside plaza. “It is more about joy in this building,” said Koenig. Yet, he commented, “It’s apparent that it has needed an upgrade.”

Springer Auditorium also will include restored frescoes and a renovated proscenium. More natural light will filter into the grand foyer, named Edyth B. Lindner Lobby with a $10 million donation. The gift shop will move to the location of the box office, which will relocate to the street level entrance off Elm St. There are also new public elevators.

Corbett Tower is undergoing a massive restoration. Removing the drop ceiling revealed a stenciled cove ceiling and additional windows. With extensive research done by Thea Tjepkema, Maestro John Morris Russell’s wife, the ceiling will have stenciled patterns duplicated. Three closed windows, open at a cost of $100,000, will match the rose window above. “In my opinion, the views toward the east from the Corbett Tower will be some of the coolest urban vistas anywhere in the world,” said Koenig.

Early rendering of Music Hall 

Some interesting statistics: Audience capacity will range from 2,263 to 2,524 depending on the performance. Seat width, however, will expand from 19”–21” to 20”–23”. Distance between the rows will change from 33”–35” to 35 –36”. The orchestra pit is enlarged from the original 1,135 square feet to 2,310 square feet. Restroom fixtures for women will increase from 44 to 68; for men the fixtures will increase from 33 to 52. Sightlines are improved in Springer Auditorium.

“I feel honored to lead SPMH because of all the hard work, care, attention to detail that the board has devoted to the restoration,” said Koenig, who started his career at St. Francis Bookshop as a clerk in 1972. He credits that experience with learning how to deal with people.

“I love and support my city.” Lawyers who are members of the Cincinnati Bar Association are encouraged to give back. “I am a student of the humanities,” said Koenig, who keeps his civic and volunteer focus on the arts. “Cincinnati punches way above its weight limit in musical arts,” he added, noting the city has the second oldest opera and the fifth oldest symphony in the U.S.
On October 11, the Society for the Preservation of Music Hall presents “Music Hall Unwrapped.” From 4:30 to 8 p.m., guests can take mini-tours of the building. The Faux Frenchman will provide entertainment in Corbett Tower. Koenig said this is a “friend raiser,” a function giving people the opportunity to see the hall and donate. Cost is $35.

“Music Hall is arguably the iconic building in Cincinnati,” concluded Koenig. On the National Register of Historic Places since 1970, the grand dame represents the city well. Designed by Samuel Hannaford and built in 1878, the building is in high Victorian Gothic mode. The original use was for the May Festival, which emerged from Saengerfest, a German tradition of a choral groups.
To learn more about the Society for the Preservation of Music Hall or donate, visit www.spmhcincinnati.org.

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