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The Shakespeare Theatre Company will soon consolidate its scattered administrative headquarters, costume and prop shops, rehearsal spaces, and educational facilities in a new theater center at 6th and I streets SW, following a partnership announced today between Shakespeare and Alexandria-based Erkiletian Real Estate.
The theater company announced a deal late last year to purchase the building at 501 I St. SW, formerly home to Southeastern University, which closed in 2010. Following the agreement with Erkiletian, says Shakespeare managing director Chris Jennings, the redeveloped building will not only house the company’s operations, but will also feature a major residential component, with both rooms for visiting artists and market-rate housing for the public.
Jennings isn’t yet sure how big the new center will be or how many housing units it will hold. But he does believe it will save the theater money in the long run. Currently, Shakespeare’s administrative headquarters and costume shop are located in two buildings on Barracks Row, one of which is owned and one of which is leased. The latter was facing the prospect of rising rents, according to Jennings.
“Our lease was coming up, and those rents are going to go up,” he says. “I’m sure if they find a restaurant partner, they’ll be able to find more dollars than with us as a nonprofit.”
A central facility will also provide convenience for the theater. Right now, beyond its Barracks Row operations and its two Penn Quarter theaters, Shakespeare has a prop shop on the Maryland border and a scene shop in the Northeast quadrant, says Jennings, although the latter will stay put. There’s also no consolidated artist housing. The new facility, Jennings says, will offer three benefits: protection from rising rents, the security of ownership, and the convenience of consolidation (and of having a headquarters just a few stops away from the company’s theaters on the Green Line).
The move creates something of a theater center in the diminutive Southwest quadrant. Arena Stage reopened just a block away in 2010 following a $135 million renovation. The huge Wharf development on the Southwest Waterfront will add to the arts concentration with a movie theater and multiple music venues.
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