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Northampton’s Academy of Music balcony re-opens after fire escape repairs

In this photo provided by Northampton building officials, the problem area on the Academy of Music fire escape is circled in black.

In this photo provided by Northampton building officials, the problem area on the Academy of Music fire escape is circled in black. Purchase photo reprints »

The reopening of the theater’s upper levels will allow for the “Really Big Show” to take place at the Academy Sunday as planned. The event is the final performance in the Northampton Arts Council’s Four Sundays in February series.

“We’ve made temporary repairs,” said David Pomerantz, director of the city’s Central Services Department.

Building Commissioner Louis Hasbrouck ordered the Academy’s loge and balcony sections closed earlier this month after two city maintenance workers noticed a failed section of stair on a fire escape on the east side of the building. Inspections that followed identified structural flaws on all four of the building’s fire escapes, on its east and west sides.

The repairs during the past week consisted of welding and the installation of additional metal. City officials Thursday cleared three of the fire escapes for use, more than enough to re-open the 400 or so seats in the theater’s upper levels under the state building code.

Pomerantz said he plans to convene stakeholders to determine the long-term future of the theater’s fire escapes, which are made of steel, wrought iron and cast iron.

The emergency stairs are believed to be original to the theater, which opened in 1891 and seats 800 people.

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