Everyman Theatre Wants to Expand in the Bromo Tower District

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Three years after Everyman Theatre moved to its current home at 315 W. Fayette Street, the organization wants to expand by buying and renovating a city-owned building nearby.

Directors of the Baltimore Development Corporation gave tentative approval to the theater’s expansion proposal and forwarded their recommendation to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who will  make the final decision on whether to accept it.

Under Everyman’s proposal, which was submitted in January, the theater would buy the former Howard Furniture Company Building at 109-111 North Howard Street.

Howard Furniture Building

The four-story building would be converted to  “Everyman Studios,”  containing a costume shop, rehearsal hall, two classrooms, storage space and eight short-term furnished apartments on the upper levels.  The apartments would serve as housing for “out of town artists associated with a production at Everyman Theatre.” When not occupied by artists, the apartments would be offered as short-term, market-rate apartments.

This is the first building in the old “Superblock” theater development area near Howard and Lexington streets for which BDC has recommended a developer during Rawlings-Blakes tenure as mayor. The agency sought proposals for nearly a dozen buildings last year and received six proposals,  which are in various stages of review. Kimberly Clark, executive vice president of BDC, told the board that proposals for other properties along Howard and Lexington streets will be presented to the board at future meetings.

Everyman raised $18.5 million to convert the old Empire Theater on Fayette Street to a modern facility and now produces six shows there a year.  Jonathan Waller, managing director of Everyman Theatre, said the expansion will allow the organization to grow. “That’s great news,” he said when told of the board’s decision. “It’s a big opportunity for Everyman to continue to serve Baltimore and increase what’s possible. “

The theater offered to buy the building for $1. CrossStreet Partners, headed by William Struever, would be the construction manager. Cho Benn Holback + Associates, the architect for Everyman Theatre, would be the architect for Everyman Studios. A tentative timetable calls for construction to begin in  May of 2018 and be complete byJanuary of 2019.

According to BDC officials, the building has 19,800 square feet of space and an appraised value of $415,000.  The agency’s approval is conditional onEveryman raising the funds it needs to move ahead with construction.  Deborah Hunt Devan, a BDC director, said the agency’s project review and oversight committee recommends that the city not transfer ownership of the building until it is satisfied sufficient funds have been raised to complete the project.

Neither the BDC nor Waller disclosed the estimated cost of the Everyman Studios project or how much they need to raise.  Waller said the theater has a large number of supporters and donors who helped fund the Fayette Street building and that it likely would launch a capital campaign to help fund the expansion.

Everyman Theatre and the Howard Street building are both part of the Bromo Tower Arts and Entertainment District. Everyman currently has rehearsal space above its theater at 315 W. Fayette, but its long-range growth plan calls for a second theater to be created in that area. Creating a rehearsal space on Howard Street would be a first step toward realizing that goal, Waller said.

Everyman’s project is one of two that received conditional approved yesterday from the BDC, which oversees development on the west side of downtown.

BDC directors also voted to recommend that the city enterinto negotiations with a group called Legsom 400 LLC, which offered to buy andrenovate five three-story buildings at 407-415 N. Howard Street.

Legsom wants to put food-related stores and other “neighborhood-serving”retail businesses at street level and 32 market rate apartments above. Itoffered to pay the city $50,000 for the five properties, which contain 21,710square feet of space.  David H. GleasonAssociates would be the architect.

The BDC said it would recommend that the city talk morewith the Legsom team but would not recommend that it move ahead unless the$50,000 offer was increased.

Ed Gunts

Ed Gunts

Ed Gunts is a local freelance writer and the former architecture critic for The Baltimore Sun.
Ed Gunts


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