Thursday, August 06, 2009

Lincoln Theatre - The Development Show Must Not Go On

A planned sale and development of vacant lots at the Lincoln Theatre now appears to have gotten its curtain call. In a plot that would have bolstered finances for the struggling theater and added desired commercial development to the U Street neighborhood, the District had hoped to sell the vacant lots to developers. According to inside sources, those plans have now been shelved.

In April 2008, Mayor Adrian Fenty announced a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the district-owned property abutting the U Street theater, with a September, 2008 application deadline for the "Lincoln Lots." According to sources in the office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED), no developer was selected and the RFP has been pulled for "economic concerns." The DMPED's office will not comment on when the RFP was pulled, how many offers were received, or any explanation for dropping the plans. Other city officials seemed unaware of the Lincoln's status; spokesmen for the Lincoln refused to comment (unless a hang-up is a comment) for this story.

At least part of the impetus for development was the theater's shaky financing, which required annual payments from the District and led to a cash infusion from the District in 2007 to prevent it's imminent closing. Proceeds from development were to seed the theater with extra cash to keep it operational.

The two parcels on V Street total 11,788 s.f. of space in a neighborhood bursting with new and planned development. At the time the RFP was released, the Mayor suggested a hotel or office would be an ideal development to share parking with the theater and provide "flexible event space, including a restaurant-quality kitchen, which would be managed by the theater management." The new structure was meant to help solidify "the Lincoln [Theatre] in the regional cultural market."

**UPDATE 08/10/09** The Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development sent DCMud the following statement as a follow-up to our post:

The District remains firmly committed to the success of the historic Lincoln Theatre. The U Street Theatre Foundation Board, its Executive Director, and overall team have made significant improvements in the operations of the theatre. Theatre management has formed strategic partnerships with a variety of cultural groups to further enliven the U Street corridor and to make the institution an anchor for the broader community. The District’s issuance of the Solicitation was to intended to provide supplemental support of the theater’s operations. The District’s decision to terminate negotiations with the potential development team last year was made to ensure the public interest in being able to produce that supplemental support. It is anticipated that a Solicitation will be issued for those same properties once the current economic climate changes.


Anonymous said...

this would be a great site for a movie multiplex. right now you have to go all the way downtown to see a movie!

J41 said...

Yikes, very interesting. Does this mean the Lincoln is in trouble as a theater?

Anonymous said...

The mutliplex is only 2 metro stops away. Not far.

This isn't the most prime commercial development spot (despite being close to U street, it fronts V street which is a small one way street not suitable to heavy commercial uses), so its probably good they pulled it rather than get a half-baked idea in there. Houses or a relatively small condo building, while probably not the big money maker they were hoping for is probably the most logical bet for what this space becomes.

If the Lincoln Theater can't survive on its operational revenue, how is the Howard Theater project going to make it?

Anonymous said...

The Lincoln Theater seemed to have survived over the past few years as being a road house for other local theater organizations such as Arena and Fords which were both displaced by their renovations.

Howard Theater's revenue stream will have a more local feel with musicians, artists and community groups sponsoring events in the space.

Anonymous said...

Arena did productions there? i had no idea.

i think the house has a really fun feel, and i'd be sad to think of it as anything beyond a performance space.

but its rare that i go there.....

monkeyrotica on Aug 7, 2009, 1:37:00 PM said...

The Lincoln Theater survives because of massive District bailouts. They have never had a year where they weren't in the red. The board of directors will come before the Council, hat in hand, and demand they pay the rent or else the whole U Street corridor will collapse. And they'll get the money, regardless of how much they ask for. And the theater will continue to be dark most of the year.

Anonymous said...

For a taxpayer-bailed entity, you'd think they would at least have gratefulness to comment on the matter. Add them to the list of bailed-out companies that will chafe at a change in business but continue to require handouts.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like it serves them right that they are out of business. Shame, its a nice theater.

Anonymous said...

This is a city landmark that deserves to be underwritten as much as the Kennedy Center. When are people going to learn that everything does not have to be in the monumental core? The city could use it for award ceremonies for schools, for performances, for community theater, and for the things it has been existing on. The city hasn't been marketing it very well so blame them for its demise.

dcdc said...

that jazz club thats going in at 5th and i should go here.

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