Pavilion manager gets new lease

Merriweather deal is for a year

I.M.P. wants longer term

Howard Live

September 29, 2006|By Tyrone Richardson | Tyrone Richardson,SUN REPORTER

General Growth Properties, owner of Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, has agreed to a one-year lease with the Bethesda-based firm that has managed the outdoor amphitheater since 2003.

Officials for I.M.P., which also owns the 9:30 Club in Washington, have expressed their desire for a long-term commitment from Merriweather's owner to make improvements to the aging venue, which opened in 1967 and has been the site of concerts by artists such as Led Zeppelin, Pearl Jam and the Grateful Dead.

But at a time when General Growth is drafting plans to turn downtown Columbia into a bustling urban environment, Douglas M. Godine, the company's general manager for Columbia, said it would be "inappropriate" to sign a long-term agreement with I.M.P.

"We are in the middle of a downtown master plan process, and we are not sure what is going to happen with what surrounds the Merriweather Post," said Godine. He and others at General Growth have emphasized the importance of the venue to Columbia.

Seth Hurwitz, co-owner of I.M.P., said the pavilion has been profitable but needs structural improvements from the "wear and tear" of use. He also would like a curtain built around the stage to allow performances year-round.

"I would need a longer-term commitment to invest in the property for improvements, and I'm happy to be there for as long or as short as they would like for me to be," Hurwitz said.

Merriweather's fate has long been a concern for residents worried about the effect of plans to develop its surrounding area.

Justin Carlson, co-founder of Save Merriweather, a grass-roots effort to preserve the pavilion, said he does not fear that GGP's short-term lease means the end of Merriweather, rather he hopes I.M.P will stay.

"I'm disappointed that GGP has not given them a long-term lease. That will benefit everybody if they give them a longer-term lease, and I hope that happens," Carlson said.

tyrone.richardson@baltsun.com

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