The Historic Opera Block - Revival Design Collective
historic, historical, exterior, storefront, Bellefontaine, revitalization, Opera Block Bellefontaine
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a block of history worth restoring.

Built in 1880, the Historic Opera Block building serves as an anchor in the downtown Bellefontaine community — transforming into a historic mixed-use development.


main street view



40,000 SF






Cally Lange
Grace Link
Lauren Knapke
Stephanie Leistenschneider
Emily Stammen
Valerie Post

The Historic Opera Block | Bellefontaine, Ohio


The Opera Block and Empire Block buildings were purchased by Small Nation in March 2021. This block has housed numerous merchants throughout the years, bringing everything from groceries and dry goods to the post office, the new stand, retail, and furniture to the community. Small Nation planned to honor the great history of this iconic building by fully restoring it to its former glory. Preserving the architectural elements of the past while updating the elements that are important to its continued longevity.





At the heart of Revival’s mission is the restoration and revitalization of communities. When Small Nation approached us to collaborate on the Opera Block development, we jumped at the opportunity. Renovating the Historic Opera Block was no small feat. This massive 40,000-square-foot, threestory historical building is located in the heart of downtown Bellefontaine, Ohio. Centered as one of the most prominent buildings in the historic downtown area, across from the courthouse and adjacent to the first concrete street in America, we knew the design of the building had to be exceptional. We wanted to pay honor to the history of the building, to downtown Bellefontaine, and to modernize the interiors enough to appeal to future tenants.

opera block field documenting



Working on a project of this size required skillfully moving piece by piece, suite by suite, floor by floor, and across the spanning exterior facade. With soaring ceilings, detailed woodwork, hardwood floors, and historic, wavy glass windows, we could see the opportunities were endless.


Field measuring the entire building was quite the feat. We broke into teams, consisting of full-time employees, interns, and some volunteers, to divide and conquer over the span of multiple days — measuring every inch of the building. Some storefronts were in better shape than others, empty, and easy to gather the data needed. While others were filled to the brim with items or working folks and required our team to climb, duck, and wiggle their way around to take the necessary measurements.


Historic buildings can struggle to keep up with the high safety standards of modern-day building codes, and our goal is to always make a space as safe and compliant as possible. With code and ADA compliance at the forefront of our designs, the Revival team worked and communicated extensively with the City of Bellefontaine and local building officials to provide patrons with the ability to appreciate the gorgeous history encapsulated within the Opera Block.


The entire block received ten new storefronts across the first floors spanning Main and Opera Street. This renovation alone created a welcoming and noticeable tenant space that has made a lasting impact on the revitalization of the downtown Bellefontaine area.

opera block _ field documenting


The restoration of the Opera Block began with returning the exteriors to their former glory. Our designers developed a paint scheme with a historical palette in mind. This would reflect the origins of the Opera Block structure — full of beautiful detail and hiding behind an all-white facade.


To allow our client to visualize the project before the painting and construction began, we developed conceptual animations. The scale and magnitude of this building provided some difficulty when selecting the perfect path and camera angle for the animation. We wanted to show the architectural detail, but also show the building as a whole. We met this by giving life to the design, and having the rendering animate, moving around the space at different angles.


The brick details and cornice details on different sections of the facade provided the opportunity to use multiple historic color palettes capable of representing each portion individually. Three different, but complimenting, color palettes were chosen — showing how each of these sections had different cornices, moldings, fluting columns, and other architectural details.

a historic palette


The first section had a dark, richer red brick. Wanting to complement it, we selected a dark and saturated green. To highlight the large columns that split each storefront window, a grey was chosen to mimic stone — while a bold gold was chosen to enhance the corbels and the finer details of this section of the building.


With a lighter, pinky-red brick on the second section of the building, we desired to give this a sophisticated appeal and work with the other tones of the surrounding palette. The rich mahogany color encompasses the majority of the painted facade around the storefront windows and parts of the cornice. The lower cornice was painted bronze — grounding the mahogany tones. Full of limestone window sills and details, our designers chose a similar tone to highlight the corbels.


The last section features bold teals on the facade with pops of gold to highlight architectural details on the cornices. The historic, yet eye-catching colors were selected as an entire palette which worked well and played off one another. The colors were designed to push and pull different architectural details to breathe life back into this stunning historic building.

opera block color palette
Opera Block Color Palettes


Historic renovation always carries a special set of challenges and unique considerations when designing — and The Historic Opera Block was no exception. When Small nation purchased the building, the Opera Block had not seen love for quite some time. Both of our teams were faced with deteriorating facades, original architecture that had been covered up, and non-historical features and finishes that had been added throughout time. Collaborating with Small Nation, the Revival team worked diligently to come up with plans to restore the building to its former glory — the first step being to figure out how it looked originally. We talked to people, did our research, found old photography, added some vision and expertise, and we were on our way.

It was obvious that the mechanical and electrical systems of the Historic Opera Block building needed extensive updating and modernization. The building had been previously heated with a gigantic boiler system that either needed extensive work (which was hard to find someone with enough experience to work on) or an update with a new system — we determined the latter was the best option for this project. We worked to get new gas lines and electric meters installed, taking quite a bit of critical thinking and masterful engineering to fit new electronics into historically built spaces.


While renovations continue onto the second floor, for now, much of the third floor remains unchanged. There are years of neglect, but the bones of the structure remain beautiful — speaking to the integrity of the historic architecture and inspiring the mission to further renovate and breathe new life into structures just like these.

opera block mural


Just like the massive footprint of the Historic Opera Block, the project will always be something that requires a lot of special consideration and planning. Considering the historic nature, and the tenants who move in and out of spaces, there will always be work to do in this building. As the exteriors have been completed and the storefronts begin to fill, local Bellefontonians have realized that the Opera Block is a prime location to see their dreams come to life… and we agree. With our second office located in the heart of the Opera Block, Revival continues to feel the local love and community effort it takes to bring this historical giant back to life.

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