For years, it’s been clear that the Capital Fringe Festival couldn’t stick around its scrappy, aberrantly cheap campus near Mount Vernon Square forever: The land, owned by Douglas Development, is simply too valuable. Now the festival is finally making plans to move, and will abandon the current Fort Fringe by the end of the year.
Last week, Fringe announced ambitious plans to procure a long-term lease of a 10,000- to 15,000-square-foot new space, which the organization will program year-round. They haven’t found one yet—the press release was to make it clear to the real estate community that Fringe is in the market—and Fringe’s CEO, Julianne Brienza, recognizes that a space that large will be hard to find, especially for an arts organization. Still, Fringe has hired a realtor, says it hopes to spend $3 to $5 million on the project, and hopes to have found its future home by this May. (For the 2015 festival, Brienza says, Fringe will likely “go nomadic” before settling into its new home for the next summer’s festival.)
So why make an announcement before finding a new Fringe campus? “Most nonprofits would wait for a space, and probably not put the dream of what we’re trying to do out there without an official target, but I think it’s OK,” Brienza says. “It’s OK to be vulnerable for a little bit.”
Is Maryland still on the table? (At a 2012 D.C. Council hearing on arts funding, Brienza suggested Fringe might move to Maryland without more support from the District.) “That’s like a really last resort situation,” Brienza says. “I think D.C. can get it together. I feel like we’ve done a lot of positive things for Washington, D.C., and it would be really weird if we weren’t here…I think our story is that we’re here.”
So what will the new Capital Fringe’s headquarters look like? Here’s what they’re thinking.