Don’t worry, the Huntington isn’t going anywhere.
When news surfaced last fall that the Boston University Theatre was being put up for sale, a bolt of panic shot through the city’s arts community about what the future held for the Huntington Theatre Company, which has staged productions at the venue for 33 years.
The arts group last year tried, unsuccessfully, to buy the theater from the university. BU later announced it would require that a new buyer for the space keep the theater rent-free and operational, but only through the end of June, 2017. BU sold the 1925 playhouse, and the real estate attached to it, to a local developer in May for $25 million.
But, as Boston Mayor Walsh announced on the theater’s storied stage Thursday, there is no longer a need to fret about a dramatic finale.
“The bottom line is the Huntington is here to stay on Huntington Ave. where it belongs,” Walsh said to a theater packed with Boston arts and political elites.
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The mayor’s administration was vocal about its hopes to preserve the theater — which in addition to hosting performances runs a number of community programs — and Walsh said his staff was active in the deal-making process.
According to the terms announced Thursday, the Huntington will have full control over the theater and an attached service wing. The arts organization will have to pay to renovate both with its own money.
Developer John Matteson and his group QMG Huntington, LLC will take over the parts of the building that house the Huntington’s production center, which will have to be relocated.
From the beginning of the deal-making process, Matteson signaled he was interested in working with the Huntington. On Thursday, he said he was pleased with the result of those conversations.
“We are very focused on the Avenue of the Arts and we’re excited about what’s going to become of the new Huntington Theatre,” he said.
In the meantime, the Huntington is preparing to launch a campaign to raise the funds for a large-scale renovation, which includes adding more space to its lobby areas and updating its amenities.
Michael Maso, Huntington’s managing director, estimated somewhere between $60 and $70 million is needed for the effort, which he hopes will wrap up in three years’ time. The theater will be closed for a to-be-determined stretch of time during the renovation, he said.
The design process for the project, which has not yet begun, will involve community input, officials said. The theater will remain unchanged through July of next year.
“This is not the end of our journey. It is only the very essential first step,” Masa said at the announcement. “Thanks to all of you we’ve been given this opportunity to bring our cultural legacy fully into the 21st Century.”