A historic courthouse that's sat empty for the last six years could be getting a second act.

Plans are now underway to transform Saint John's Sydney Street courthouse into a theatrical institution.

For 190 years, the stone courthouse has been a landmark of law and justice, but the stage is being set for the historic building to take on a dramatically different role.

Inside a theatre space, $2.5 million in federal funding was announced Tuesday for the Saint John Theatre Company to renovate and repurpose the courthouse.

“Our hope is we can transform the historic courtroom space into a public performance venue that would seat 190 to 200 people,” said Stephen Tobias, the Saint John Theatre Company executive director.

The old courthouse has been vacant since 2013 when it witnessed its last legal case.

With its rich history, the building was designated as a national historic site in 1974.

Saint John Rothesay MP Wayne Long says it's important the city invest in and market its own history.

“I was in that building last year, it was eerie, it was quiet,” Long said. “The building to me was screaming at me for help and support.”

The theatre company will need more support than the promised funding from the feds.

The estimated total cost of the project at this stage is between $6-7 million.

“It's validation of the dream and it's the beginning of a bigger job which is to raise the rest of the money, but also get on with the rehabilitation, restoration, and renewal of the old saint john county courthouse,” said architect Bob Boyce.

The courthouse itself is nearly two hundred years old, but the Saint John Theatre Company says the building is still in very good shape, but it will still need a lot of work before this court house can take centre stage.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Laura Lyall.