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Here’s a skech of the proposed rennovations:
Everyman troupe going to west side
By J. Wynn Rousuck and Jamie Smith Hopkins
Baltimore Sun reporters
Originally published November 15, 2006
In a development that could further the transformation of downtown Baltimore’s west side from a neglected shopping district into a vibrant arts center, Everyman Theatre, a thriving regional troupe, will move into a vacant vaudeville house across from the restored Hippodrome.
Civic leaders say the shift into the Town Theatre – to be announced today – will build on the Hippodrome’s momentum, reviving a once-grand theater district. The development comes in the midst of improvements to the west side, which has added restaurants and more than 750 apartments in the past two years, a turnaround after the shopping district’s long slide.
The Town – which once played host to such stars as Mae West and Joe E. Brown – is the final parcel in Bank of America’s Centerpoint project, a major mixed-use complex of retail and 392 apartments that wraps around the Town. Bank of America’s donation of the Town to Everyman will be made public at a celebration this afternoon of the completion of Centerpoint.
Everyman’s renovation of the 95-year-old Town is projected to be completed in fall 2009 at a cost of $11.5 million. It follows the $62 million restoration of the Hippodrome, which reopened in February 2004.
Hippodrome Executive Director Marks Chowning welcomes the prospect of having Everyman as a neighbor. “[it’s] going to put another critical mass of bodies down there that will help support other businesses, restaurants and retail, or whatever theaters may come down the pike,” he said.
The west-side location could be a boon for Everyman, a professional company that has built a solid reputation in Baltimore over the past 16 years with such sold-out productions as the Pulitzer Prize-winning Proof in 2004 and this season’s premiere of The Cone Sister.
“I love the idea that this theater would only be three blocks from the ballparks and the Inner Harbor. It would give tourists another cultural attraction within walking distance of their hotels,” said Vincent M. Lancisi, Everyman’s founder and artistic director. “I feel like Everyman has not tapped into the visitors to Baltimore, partly because of our location.”
Everyman hopes to help stimulate growth on the west side, as it did in the Charles North neighborhood. Lancisi said the block was 80 percent vacant – even The Charles Theatre was dark between owners – when Everyman moved into its present home at 1727 N. Charles St. in 1994.
“Over the past 12 years we’ve enjoyed a great renaissance in that block, and I’d like to think Everyman played a significant role in that,” he said.
West-side business and development groups are looking forward to the impact the theater could have on the area.
“Everyman is such a beloved institution and has quickly developed very strong roots in the community, and to have them plant themselves on Fayette Street just bodes very well for the future,” said Ronald Kreitner, executive director of WestSide Renaissance Inc., a nonprofit that leads efforts to redevelop the neighborhood.
The Town, whose historic facade fronts on Fayette Street, will be given a secondary entrance on Eutaw, facing the Hippodrome. Everyman expects to have 250 to 300 seats; the Hippodrome has 2,250.
“You’ve got Broadway on one side of the street and off-Broadway on the other. We are not competitors in any sense; we will feed off each other,” Lancisi said.
Valued at $1.8 million, the Town is being sold to Everyman for $1. Bank of America’s decision to essentially donate the theater “was an entirely appropriate use” for the Town, said Bill Couper, the bank’s mid-Atlantic president. “Here was an organization that could really make something of it. … It would add to the neighborhood in a way that would complement what’s already there in the Hippodrome.”
The bank has been the largest corporate sponsor of the theater’s education programs for the past decade and has an officer on Everyman’s board.
Everyman has outgrown its Charles Street venue, a former bowling alley. “We will go from the little theater that could to a mid-sized theater with a significant regional reputation,” said Lancisi. “The facility will give Everyman the tools it needs to ramp up its production values. It will allow the artists the technology and support that they need to do their best work."
Everyman, whose current flexible space can hold 170 to 200 patrons, has been experiencing growing pains for several seasons, during which its shows have played to 92 percent capacity. A bid to move into the vacated Chesapeake Restaurant at the southeast corner of the block was turned down by the city last year.
But a desire for more seats is only part of Everyman’s needs. The theater has never had a rehearsal hall, costume or prop shops, or classrooms – all of which will be built into the Town renovation. Eventually, Everyman hopes to have a second theater within the Town.
A brief tour of the abandoned building revealed evidence of its most recent incarnation as twin movie theaters – the concession stands, upstairs screen and theater seats are still intact, albeit thick with cobwebs. Despite the elegant facade, however, any remnant of the interior’s nearly century-old splendor is long gone.
“There is nothing architecturally or historically worth saving in the interior,” said Lancisi. “We’re going to go in and sculpt it out so you basically have a big rectangular box, and we will insert intimate spaces within it.”
West-side businesses could use the boost that Everyman’s patrons might provide. Next door to the Town, at Maggie Moore’s Irish Pub & Restaurant, manager Mick MacEoin said the area has been rejuvenated in the 16 months since he started working there – but he had plenty of time to talk about it during a recent lunch hour because the crowd was thin.
“More businesses coming in,” he said when asked what he’d like to see on the west side. “More businesses that will bring more people to the area. … Most of our business comes from the Hippodrome, the University of Maryland and Centerpoint.”
Nearby is the languishing “superblock,” targeted for redevelopment but held up by disputes between the city and a key property owner. City officials say the six-block area, which runs along Fayette Street to the south and as far west as Howard Street, is critical to west-side revitalization.
But there are signs of progress, beginning with the Hippodrome and Centerpoint, which is for sale now that development is complete. Across the street from the Town, a Philadelphia firm has scaffolding up for redevelopment work on a former Hecht’s department store annex. The University of Maryland, Baltimore, just put out a request for bids on a long-empty bank building that could be transformed into a hotel.
“It was a very vibrant community in the past,” said Matthew Kachura, a research analyst at the Jacob France Institute, the University of Baltimore’s economic research center. “It maybe hasn’t reached its potential yet, but it’s getting there.”
Said Kirby Fowler, president of the Downtown Partnership: “If one looks back just three, four years ago and sees the progress that’s been made in that area, it’s almost staggering.”
Everyman’s lease at 1727 N. Charles has been extended for the three years it will take to renovate the Town, whose costs are expected to be met by a capital campaign.
The theater’s departure from the Charles North neighborhood will be a setback for that arts district, but only a temporary one, predicted M.J. “Jay” Brodie, president of the Baltimore Development Corp., the city’s economic development arm. “There are people looking at serious investments in that area,” he said.
Lancisi hopes another theater will occupy Everyman’s space. “I would hate to see a performing arts component not in the arts and entertainment district,” he said.
I thought the Coronet had closed on Feb. 10th?
Has there been any progress/news on trying to save the theater?
Jim, thanks for the compliments! Really appericated. :–)
I started doing this part time with the occasional down/free time at work and home (yes, you nasa tax dollars at work….lol). Started begining of December and finished up middle of January. The best I could figure would be about 3 weeks if I was doing it full time. But when you’re enjoying something, time flys by.
Primarly I did this from memeory and pictures. I got in to the Grand last January, the day before it was demolished and took a few dozen pictures. I also have pictures from the 40s. I found out that the lost size for the theater was 60' x 120' from city records, so I used that as a baseline in referencing the pictures. I did have to ‘fudge’ a few things, because I never got into all of the areas of the theater, backstage, basememt………etc.
I wish I was lucky enough to have had a detailed book like yours, would have made it a lot easier. The owner of the Senator Theater (here in Baltimore) told me that his brother may have the original blueprints of the Grand, but I have a feeling it would be difficult to get a copy.
There’s plenty of 3D imagining sofware out there, I just used ProEngineer because it’s the one I have the most esperience on. I’m sure you could find one that you could user friendly.
Please feel free to email me, I have a lot more pictures and 3D renderings.
Has anyone in the Bay area considered contacting Lucasfilm? I’m sure they know that the Coronet is the only theater that has shown ALL of the Star Wars films (and know of the theater’s closing).
Maybe a a flood of emails (or quick online petetion) to see if Lucasfilm would be willing to workout some kind of arrangement with the new owners to show the last Star Wars film at the Coronet. I’m not a huge S.W. fan, but at least this would let the theater go out in style/class with some unique history added.
These were done using the engineering 3D design software Pro Engineer (and built in PhotoRender). I did this just to fully remember how the theater looked, inside and out (before I get older and forget….lol). I’ve even done some renderings/picture with a few movies ‘showing’ on the sereen (and had played there), from the perspective of both the floor and balcony seats.
My final way of preserving a piece of lost history.
There needs to be some kind of non-profit national trust/origination setup to compile a list of endangered theaters and have them step long before any talk of demolition to save the theater(s). We are getting involved too little, too late and letting this happen. We are loosing our history!
From the looks of the fire pictures, it seems the the facade and marquee are still fully intact. I wonder if it could be salvaged and resued somehow?
From what I’ve heard, the origianl plans do still exist. The idea I have is to build a new updated Grand, facade & main theater the same, but with two smaller wings of the sides for addtional screen (make it more profitable. Do anyone has any ideas on how to do this, planning, fundind…….etc?
This week Iâ€™ve been leaning a lot of the real story behind the demolition of the Grand. Three years ago when the Enoch Pratt Library announced the new Highlandtown library, they said, â€œWe are going to try and incorporate the Grand into the new library design. This was just to lull the public into thinking the Grand was going to be saved. Then last year the said â€œDue to the bad condition of the Grand, it canâ€™t be saved and has to come down.â€ I was one who fell for it. From the pictures I got this past Sunday, 18 2003, you can see it was still in very good condition. This was all a good snow job by both the Library system and the East Baltimore Guide. They never intended to save it! Personally if I had the finances, I build a new Grand in defiance to them!
There have been various proposals over the years: Concert hall/Night club, Art house with small movie/video production services…etc, but none seemed to stick. It’s far too late to be saved, the whole block pictured it coming down for the library. I may avoid the area when the demolition starts, don’t want to see it being torn down.
The original plans for the regional library we to include the structure & facade of the Grand Theater. Though two years ago the architects & engineers inspected the theater and found that due to extensive water damage the supporting structure is too far gone (and costly) to be saved. I recently heard from the local merchants association that the marquee, box office, and some internal fixtures are going to be saved for some future use.
The fence around the block went up last week and the demolition is to start today, Dec 01 2003 :–(