SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (AP) — Construction has begun on a project that will turn a historic church in downtown Saratoga Springs into a state-of-the art performing arts education and entertainment venue.

Empire State Development, New York's main economic development agency, announced Thursday that renovation work has started at Universal Preservation Hall, located a block from Saratoga's main thoroughfare.

The organization that runs UPH announced several years ago it was partnering with Proctor's Theatre in Schenectady to restore and renovate a building that opened in 1871 as a Methodist church. The Victorian structure was sold a century later to the Universal Baptist Church.

The building fell into disrepair until local preservationists restored it and began hosting events.

Officials say UPH will invest more than $9 million to improve the property, with the state providing more than $1.5 million in grants.

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