Annapolis vies for stages with arts complex

A venue for the cozy and colossal

December 05, 2007|By Nicole Fuller | Nicole Fuller,SUN REPORTER

The proposed $60 million performing arts center at Park Place in Annapolis could host performances ranging from homegrown productions to national tours of Broadway shows.

The design, which representatives of the Park Cos. have begun showing to city community associations, calls for a 1,200-seat theater and a smaller performance hall seating 250 inside the massive hotel, office and residential complex on 7 acres near Westgate Circle, said Jerome J. Parks, vice president of the company.

"Literally, the sky would be the limit," he said. "This would give an opportunity for traveling Broadway shows to be here, all the way down to local people."

The project has not been formally introduced to city leaders, but Mayor Ellen O. Moyer expressed support for developing city arts facilities.

"Now we're at another plateau, another time to grow," she said. "I think for the total arts complexion for the city, it's important for us now to continue to grow. I support the whole development of the arts-and-entertainment district."

Parks said the theater complex would be funded through a mix of public and private funding, adding, "There are a number of groups out there that look for these opportunities to have naming rights."

The auditorium was part of the original proposal for Park Place in 1999. The city initially approved the $250 million upscale complex with a 950-seat theater, but it was expanded to attract a greater variety of performances.

"The charge that was given was to produce a performance hall that is not so specific that only one type of performance could be appreciated there but could be at a level to attract upper-level performances," Parks said. "The Annapolis area really doesn't have anything of this magnitude currently. So, therefore, it became a great opportunity as we were able to acquire the appropriate amount of space. It became a good fit for the project."

Carol Treiber, executive director of the Arts Council of Anne Arundel County Inc., said the theater at Park Place would rival other area performing arts venues: the Chesapeake Arts Center in Brooklyn Park and the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts.

"I think it would be a big advantage for the area," she said. "It would certainly bring in big-name performers. We need a wonderful performing arts center like that. We could definitely use that in this area."

Linnell Bowen, executive director of the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, the 75-year-old theater and arts school, said, "The competition now is Washington and Baltimore, the Hippo[-drome], ... the Kennedy Center. This is one more theater. ... Are we going to go after the same funds? That will be the question."

Maryland Hall, which has an 850-seat theater that houses a symphony, ballet, opera and chorale, is funded through the city, as well as the Maryland State Arts Council and the Anne Arundel County Arts Council.

There is no timeline for construction of the theater.

The first phase of the planned 208 luxury condominiums has been completed. The Westin Annapolis hotel, Starbucks, Carpaccio restaurant, Fado Irish Pub & Restaurant, an Aveda salon and Morton's The Steakhouse opened earlier this year.

Office tenants so far include SensorCom Inc., PharmAthene and Merrill Lynch. Construction on the second office building should be completed by July.

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