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HUNTINGTON THEATRE COMPANY ANNOUNCES START OF CONSTRUCTION FOR TRANSFORMATIONAL RENOVATION OF THE HUNTINGTON THEATRE

HUNTINGTON RECEIVES MAJOR GIFT TO RETAIN  “THE HUNTINGTON THEATRE” AS VENUE NAME

(BOSTON) –The Huntington today announced the start of major construction of The Huntington Theatre, its historic home on Huntington Avenue, beginning an 18-month construction period that will restore, renovate, and modernize the 95-year-old Boston landmark.

In order to optimize the time of the theatre’s forced closure due to the pandemic, The Huntington has accelerated the timeline of its renovation plan with the goal of reopening the storied venue in the fall of 2022. This revised renovation plan requires an innovative phased approach: phase one includes the restoration of the theatre building, the renovation of the adjoining service building which houses dressing rooms, a rehearsal room and function space, and will include new lobby space, an elevator that serves all floors, new restrooms, and a new accessible-to-all entrance as part of the renovation; phase 2 of the project will include expanded lobby spaces and public spaces in the neighboring residential tower once it is complete. The Huntington remains committed to the full scope of the project.

“The Huntington Theatre has been home to so many extraordinary productions over the past four decades,” says Managing Director Michael Maso. “We now have the opportunity to restore this gem of a theatre to its former architectural glory, while also enhancing it with new, modern amenities to serve our artists, our audiences, and our community. And after a year of the theatre being dark, it is thrilling to announce that there is once again energy and activity in the building, as we plan for an exciting future.”

Built in 1925 as the first not-for-profit playhouse in the US, The Huntington Theatre was acquired from developers QMG Huntington by the Huntington Theatre Company on a permanent basis in 2017, through the assistance of the city of Boston when Boston University put the building up for sale.

This major renovation will address the sorely needed maintenance and updating of the almost century-old building, providing critical upgrades of all mechanical systems from HVAC to the electrical wiring, making the facility accessible to all, and bringing the building into the 21st century with sustainable and universal design. 

At the same time, the project will also restore and revitalize the key architectural features of this historic gem, highlighting the beauty of the original building, while providing modern comforts and amenities both in public areas and behind the scenes. These substantial improvements to the venue will allow The Huntington to expand its services to artists, audiences, staff, young people, and the community at large.

While the theatre is undergoing this transformation, The Huntington Theatre Company plans to produce a full season of theatre for 21/22 mainly at its Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA in the South End, beginning in late August 2021.

“When The Huntington built the Calderwood Pavilion in 2004, it was an important first step for us to expand our mission and dedication to our communities beyond the Avenue of the Arts and it was a transformational moment for us as a company,” says Maso. “We will now embark on another such journey, reinvigorating The Huntington’s original, historic location creating a dynamic new center for creativity in the heart of our city.”

 

CAPITAL CAMPAIGN PROGRESS

Led by Capital Campaign Chair Ann Merrifield and Vice Chair and Huntington Board President Sharon Malt, the Huntington’s capital campaign The Campaign for The New Huntington: A Storied Venue with a Bold Vision has made significant progress, already raising over $81.5 million towards a comprehensive goal of $110 million (which includes annual fund giving for the duration of the campaign and funds to increase the theatre’s endowment and reserves). 

The Campaign for The New Huntington is both an investment in the diverse cultural fabric of Boston,” says Campaign Chair Merrifield, “And a promise that The Huntington will serve even more artists, audiences, and young people for years to come.”

Huntington Board Chairman David Epstein and Trustee Betsy Epstein have committed $9 million as a “non-naming” leadership gift to ensure that The Huntington Theatre retains its name for generations to come. “My wife Betsy and I are proud to support The Huntington in this transformational moment for the company,” says David Epstein. “Theatre is essential – The Huntington has the power to inspire people and bring us together for meaningful collective experiences, and we are happy to help secure The Huntington’s legacy for the future.”

In addition to the generosity of the Huntington’s Board of Trustees and Advisors, the campaign has widespread support from individual, foundation, government, and corporate funders throughout Greater Boston.  Loan financing was provided by Century Bank with the assistance of Elizabeth Jick and Susan Winshall of Zions Bank Public Finance.  The Huntington has also secured federal Historic Preservation Tax Credit financing and a New Markets Tax Credit allocation via the National Trust Community Investment Corporation (NTCIC), and Massachusetts Historic Tax Credits through the Massachusetts Historic Commission, with the assistance of David Ennis and David Scheltz of Affirmative Investments Inc. Additional assistance was provided by Albert Rex and Mary Nastasi of MacRostie Historic Advisors LLC, Daniel Kolodner and Kathryn Day of Klein Hornig LLP, and Stephanie Massey and David Rodgers of Locke Lord LLP.

“Century Bank prioritizes reinvesting in our community and is proud to support The Huntington’s major renovation project,” says Jerry Algere, Century Bank Executive Vice President – Health Care, Education, Not-for-Profit. “Theatre and the arts enrich people’s lives and we look forward to the Huntington expanding their reach and services to the community through this project.”

"COVID has impacted so many industries across the country, particularly the arts,” said NTCIC Acquisitions Manager Amanda Bloomberg. “Financing the Huntington restoration while the doors are temporarily closed will allow the Huntington to come back more impactful than ever when it reopens."

 

RENOVATION PLAN HIGHLIGHTS:

  • The auditorium will be reimagined with new theatre seating, improved sightlines, and new acoustic systems which will ensure a high quality and comfortable audience experience 
  • The new theatre seats will be wider with more legroom, and the seating configuration will change to accommodate an increased number of accessible seats and several rows of continental seating (continuous rows across the theatre) at the front of the orchestra and mezzanine; formerly housing 890 seats, the new configuration will have approximately 750 seats
  • Major upgrades to all systems, including an all-new elevator serving all floors, HVAC and sprinkler systems, and electrical wiring; The Huntington is also consulting with Harvard professor and Director of the Healthy Buildings program Joseph G. Allen and his 9 Foundations team to include high quality ventilation and filtration systems
  • A full upgrade and modernization of all staff, crew, and artist support spaces to better aid our personnel and serve our productions
  • A new arcade main entrance created in the spirit of universal design allows all visitors to enter together, with a ramp from the sidewalk level to accommodate accessibility needs and the loading of scenery to the backstage area
  • A newly enclosed arcade on the second level, providing a gallery convening space connecting the historic theatre and new 2nd floor lobby space
  • Thorough restoration of the 1925 historic lighting fixtures, including the chandeliers and vintage star fixtures, in the theatre and lobby
  • A new fully automated and programmable fly-rigging system will replace the antiquated manual counterweight system for flying in scenery and the curtain, improving both safety and efficiency for Huntington run crew staff
  • A newly expanded and accessible orchestra pit and trap system underneath the stage
  • The 2nd floor rehearsal hall and event space will be rehabilitated, including the restoration of the wood paneling and the revealing and refurbishing of beautiful windows that have long been bricked and boarded up
  • Brand new, elegant, all-gender restrooms will serve all theatregoers in an equitable, inclusive, and dignified way; (notably, the theatre previously had only 9 toilets in the public restrooms available to women, and now all theatregoers will have equal access to 29!)
  • The renovation project will use key elements of sustainable design, moving towards the city of Boston’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2050: there is a significant savings of embodied carbon by reusing the existing structures; improvements to the efficiency of building systems, as well as new windows and better insulation, will reduce energy use by up to 70%; 80% of the energy used in the building will come from electrified systems; new plumbing fixtures and systems will reduce water use by up to 30%; building materials will be non-toxic with low volatile organic compounds (VOC); and low-touch and non-touch hardware will be used whenever possible

The principal architect of the Huntington Theatre project is Jason Forney of Bruner Cott and Associates, working alongside Nurit Zuker, Karen Greene, and Rima Abouseleiman. The construction manager for the project is Shawmut Design and Construction, led by project executive David LyskowskiJeff Ganem of Leggat McCall Properties is the project manager, and Kat Herzig is the Huntington Theatre Manager. Auerbach Pollock Friedlander theatre design consultants, Jaffe Holden acoustical consultants, and Selbert Perkins Design provide additional services.

The construction process will last approximately 18 months, and The Huntington Theatre is expected to reopen in the fall of 2022. The $110 million capital campaign includes $64 million for the anticipated costs of construction ($55  million for phase one, including the theatre renovation, the initial enabling project, and relocation of The Huntington Production Center and administrative offices, and $9 million for phase 2 respectively); the remaining balance supports growth in our operations during the campaign period and increases to our endowment and reserve funds to safeguard the company’s future.


ABOUT THE BUILDING

Constructed in 1925 and designed by Boston architects J. Williams Beal and Sons, this historic theatre was built by actor and impresario Henry Jewett as the Repertory Theatre of Boston and was called “America’s first civic playhouse” for being the first not-for-profit theatre in the US. Jewett wanted to establish his theatre near the revered Symphony Hall and the Museum of Fine Arts on Huntington Avenue, now known as the Avenue of the Arts. Boston University purchased the theatre in 1955, then founded the Huntington Theatre Company as its resident in 1982 (the Huntington became independent of BU in 1986). When the theatre complex was put up for sale in 2015 and the Huntington Theatre’s future was uncertain, advocacy from Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh and the City of Boston, along with the good will and openness of the theatre’s buyers, QMG Huntington now partnered with Toll Brothers, allowed the Huntington Theatre Company to secure permanent ownership of the building for generations to come.

 

ABOUT THE HUNTINGTON THEATRE COMPANY

The Huntington Theatre Company is Boston’s leading professional theatre and one of the region’s premier cultural assets since its founding in 1982. Recipient of the 2013 Regional Theatre Tony Award, the Huntington brings together superb local and national talent to produce a mix of groundbreaking new works and classics made current, and create award-winning productions.  Committed to welcoming broad and diverse audiences, the Huntington provides life-changing opportunities for students through its robust education and community programs, is a national leader in the development of playwrights and new plays, and serves the local arts community through its operation of the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA. The Huntington is currently conducting a major renovation of the historic Huntington Theatre, a storied venue with a bold vision for the future, which will allow us to innovatively expand our services to audiences, artists, and the community for generations to come. Under the direction of Managing Director Michael Maso, the Huntington cultivates, celebrates, and champions theatre as an art form. For more information, visit huntingtontheatre.org.

 

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