A new fine arts center is in the works for Verona, Oakmont and surrounding communities.
After years of being vacant, the old Spiral Staircase Restaurant and Lounge on James Street in Verona is getting a makeover.
The property was purchased by Bonnie Myers-Toward and her husband, Ralph Toward. They plan to transform the building into the Western Pennsylvania Center for the Arts.
Myers-Toward, an Oakmont native and Riverview High School graduate, told Patch that the building is currently being remodeled to house a performance area for various events including jazz concerts, art galleries, dinner theater and student ensembles. The facility also will house retail sales of musical instruments and related items, and it will offer instrument repairs and rentals. There will be a space for music lessons and art lessons, classes and summer camps.
Myers-Toward has been a music teacher in the South Butler County School District for 27 years. Toward also works in the school district as a school resource officer and light technician for the music program.
Myers-Toward said the duo had been looking for a spot to house their center for four years. They weren't happy with any of the buildings they looked at, but she said she remembered the Spiral Staircase from her childhood.
"I was too young when the Spiral Staircase was a really nice place to go, but we decided to go look at it. We saw the building twice. Having a vision for what we wanted, we decided to go ahead with it. I know this area like the back of my hand."
Myers-Toward and her husband have been working on gutting the former restaurant.
"It looked like there was a Halloween party one night in 1985 and everyone just decided to go home," she said with a laugh. "The staircase is still amazing. It's gorgeous."
The pair is hoping to restore the building to its natural facade. Myers-Toward said because of the building's large size, it can transform into something different—art galleries, concert space, etc.
"It's big enough to do anything," she said.
Myers-Toward has been working with local school districts to spread the word about the new space and recruit musicians for rock orchestras that will play at the arts center. They already have held auditions at the Oakmont Carnegie Library.
"I am really excited about this," she said. "It's going to be a nice, classy place. We want to make something that people in the community are going to be proud of."
The Western Pennsylvania Center for the Arts is scheduled to open June 1. For more information, visit www.westernpennsylvaniacenterforthearts.com.