Now that we’ve broken ground, what’s next? Earth-moving equipment won’t arrive at our theater construction site till the spring of 2013, but much work is in progress between now and then — and between now and the autumn of 2014, when we plan to stage our first show in our Gordon Square Arts District home.
Redesign. We’re putting the final touches on architectural drawings. If that seems surprising given that we’ve already broken ground, just know it’s been a long journey. The first drawings were done in 2005. A revision followed in 2008 to make the building affordable in response to the Great Recession. In 2011, with capital fundraising rebounding, the idea of adding a super-energy-efficient Passivhaus design caught the imagination of campaign leaders and funders, requiring another redesign that started in the spring of 2012. While working at that, we’ve reassessed a few features of the 2008 drawings and are completing exterior plans that we hope will communicate what happens inside Near West Theatre: our unusual process, our relationship- and community building, our extraordinary theatrical experiences. Daily work and biweekly construction meetings are bringing us near a late-January goal for key decisions by the Near West Theatre Board of Trustees regarding what aspects — including what degree of Passivhaus design — we can afford.
Site preparation. Among a variety of site tasks now underway — ranging from soil tests to the transfer of certain land parcels to us from the Gordon Square Arts District and the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization — the one that looms largest (literally) is the need to remove electrical transformers, and the utility poles that hold them, from the site. They stand along West 67th Street and serve the Gordon Square Arcade Building. We’re in conversation with the City of Cleveland and Cleveland Public Power about that.
Program planning. Among the many beauties of our new building will be year-round access (compared to nine months per year in the performance space we currently rent): more time to build community and relationships through experiences and art that transform lives. How to take advantage of that fact, along with all the other great things about our new building, including separate space for rehearsals and programs? That dreaming and planning is under way at the staff and Board level, and we’ve got nearly two years before the building opens to collect the community’s ideas. To paraphrase Ragtime, make us hear you!
Fundraising! Our part of the $30 million Gordon Square Arts District campaign is $6.8 million, and we have about $900,000 of that left to raise toward our new building (not to mention future build-out phases to be funded, separately, beyond that). We’re glad for the excitement generated by our Nov. 27 groundbreaking ceremony, which was encouraged by our generous lead donors, Char and Chuck Fowler. Everyone involved hopes additional major gifts will follow as our building starts to rise from the ground. If you’re interested in helping (get that tax deduction by giving before the end of the calendar year!), here is our current hierarchy of financial needs:
- Annual Fund gifts. Our top priority is to exceed our $666,941 operating budget this year and create a cash reserve for strength and flexibility as we look ahead to a new day in a new building. Our stretch goal for gifts from individuals in the 2012-2013 fiscal year is $315,713, and our end-of-2012 gift goal is $55,000. You can give online, respond by mail to our December year-end appeal letter, or call Development Director Lindsay Doerr, 216-961-9750 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
- Building fund gifts. Major gifts are sought and gifts of any size are welcome as we aim to close that last $900,000 of our Gordon Square goal. A Community Campaign, aiming for $200,000 of that, is now underway with an attractive mural-recognition incentive described in our December 2012 newsletter. To get involved, contact Mary Hromyko at the Gordon Square Arts District office, 216-961-4242, ext. 242, email@example.com.
- Endow us! Thanks to longtime Near West Theatre supporters Chuck and Rita Maimbourg and a matching gift from KeyBank, we now have a Near West Theatre Fund at The Cleveland Foundation. Designed to function as an endowment, we hope this fund will grow and grow through years of donations, and that the interest it generates will become a significant source of income for the theater’s programs in the future. This new fund opens the door to life-income gifts that pay you a return, and other forms of planned giving. Interested? Contact Lindsay at the theater, 216-961-9750 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Hans Holznagel