Nova Scotia

Lunenburg Opera House finds new owners

The building on Lincoln Street was sold to the Lunenburg Folk Harbour Society.

'It's been a long-term goal, let's say a dream, of members of the society'

The Lunenburg Opera House has been sold to the Lunenburg Folk Harbour Society. (CBC)

A businessman who personally funded a multimillion-dollar restoration of the Lunenburg Opera House has sold the property.

Farley Blackman sold the building on Lincoln Street to the Lunenburg Folk Harbour Society.

"It's a different world I woke up in today," Blackman said from Vermont. 

"There's always mixed feelings when you sell a property that you put so much work and effort and heart and soul into. I think ultimately though I'm very happy to see it go to the [society]."

Blackman said he sold the property for just over $733,000.

Harold Pearse, the society's president, said the group was able to make the purchase thanks to a grant from the U.S.-based Fordi Family Foundation.

"It's been a long-term goal, let's say a dream, of members of the society to have our own venue," Pearse said.

He said the grant covered 60 per cent of the asking price and the group also received a donation from a local business in Lunenburg.

The Lunenburg Opera House was renovated in 2016 by businessman Farley Blackman. (CBC)

He said the society has been working since last fall to develop a business plan and apply for a mortgage.

"It's exciting, a little bit scary ," Pearse said.

Much will be required from a volunteer organization "but I think it'll be well worth it," he said.

Pearse said there will be concerts in the main auditorium, including two next month, but the group plans to renovate the second floor and rent out that space.

Blackman said he hopes the group can fulfil the plans he had for the venue — to have year-round programming and create ongoing economic viability in Lunenburg.

Businessman Farley Blackman speaks to the CBC's Colleen Jones in 2016 about the renovations at the Lunenburg Opera House. (CBC)

Blackman and his wife, Courtney, moved to Lunenburg about 15 years ago, where they purchased and restored several properties, including the opera house, as well as opened an art gallery.

But in the summer of 2017, he announced he was leaving the community in a Facebook post that accused the mayor and town staff of creating a "toxic and obstructive" environment.

A rally was held in support of Blackman, where he said bureaucratic delays over things like moving power wires had dragged on and caused him six figures in damages.

A rally was held in support of Blackman and his wife, Courtney. (Jon Tattrie/CBC)

The town eventually offered a temporary solution and put in a short-term power line so he could continue renovations of a building on Montague Street.

That wasn't enough to keep him and his wife in the harbour town.

"Unfortunately the town did not work with us in a manner that's conducive to continuing to invest and build businesses there," he said.

He said another opportunity came up overseas and he has since moved to Australia.

"Life takes its twists and turns and I think you kind of need to go with it. Am I disappointed? Certainly.… I continue to think what could have been," Blackman said.

"I think at this point the torch is passed to others and I have no doubt that others will fill the space that my wife and I once took in Lunenburg."

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