Spotlighters to redevelop landmark Read’s building
The Baltimore Development Corp. has accepted Audrey Herman Spotlighters Theatre’s proposal to renovate the former Read’s Drug Store building on Howard Street, a landmark of black history in Baltimore, according to the corporation’s managing director of marketing and external relations, Susan Yum.
The city’s quasi-public economic development arm announced this week that it has awarded Spotlighters exclusive negotiation privilege for the site and is looking to iron out final details of the theater’s proposal to move from its Mount Vernon location to Howard Street, where it would transform the old Read’s building into an $11.6 million community arts center, dubbed the Audrey Herman Community Arts Center.
James “Fuzz” Roark, Spotlighters’ executive director, said the theater company was hoping to sign the agreement by the middle of this month after its board reviews the plan. Then Spotlighters would begin the initial stages of the project, including drawing out further estimates, Roark said.
The 21,300-square-foot-project, to be named after the late actress and founder of Spotlighters, would include a 120-seat theater on the first floor, a 2,200-squarefoot black-box theater on the third floor, a community center with rentable spaces, and an exhibit space that would house a replica of the counter where Morgan State University students staged a sit-in to protest segregated lunch counters in 1955, Roark said.
Storage space, a workshop, offices for staff, and spaces for rehearsals, dressing rooms and green room facilities for actors would also be available, Roark said.
The site, which is blocks from the Hippodrome and Everyman theaters, is one of 16 city-owned vacant buildings in what was previously known as the “Superblock” development. The city has split up the parcel, allowing prospective developers to choose parts they would like to renovate. The BDC began seeking proposals to redevelop pieces of the block last year.
Roark says preliminary estimates put the project cost at $11.6 million. Public funding — bond issues, state grants and tax credits — would account for $4.5 million to $5 million, he said. Private funding should make up the rest, “from individual foundations and corporations who want to see arts and theater standing in the west side,” said Roark, who hopes to offer theater and arts education to youths at the center.
Roark said construction for the project wouldn’t begin for at least 18 months.