College Performance Spaces Take Center Stage

Originally published Aug. 24, 2014 in Banker & Tradesman.

While life sciences departments are driving most of higher-education development in the Boston area, arts colleges are responsible for a spate of new centers opening up across the city. On Sept. 5, the Boston Conservatory will open a 20,000-square-foot studio and performance facility at 132 Ipswich St. in the Fenway.

The new $5.1 million building includes an orchestra rehearsal hall that doubles as a performance venue, dance teaching and rehearsal studios and 17 practice rooms. The Boston Conservancy funded the facility in part through a $500,000 donation by Berkshire Property Advisors co-Chairman George Krupp and his wife, Lizbeth, along with $1 million in private donations and a $24.5 million tax-exempt bond from MassDevelopment, according to Conservancy representatives.

“We pride ourselves in educating and inspiring the next generation of performers and thought leaders in the performing arts – and these new spaces will help our amazing faculty do just that,” Boston Conservatory President Richard Ortner said in a press release. “This is not only an investment in the Boston Conservatory’s future, it’s an investment in the future of the arts in Boston.”

The opening follows Berklee College of Music’s January ribbon cutting of its new $100-million residence, performance and dining hall. The built-to-suit building houses 369 students, 23 practice rooms, six two-story commons areas, a fitness center and a 400-seat dining hall that doubles as a performance space.

Not long after the Boston Conservatory celebrates its ribbon-cutting, the Massachusetts College of Art and Design

(MassArt) will celebrate a topping-off ceremony of their own. On Oct. 3, MassArt representatives will place the final beam on a $40.4-million Design and Media Center at 621 Huntington Ave. The 40,000-square-foot building will provide flexible classroom and studio space for industrial, animation, graphic, fashion, illustration, architecture and web interface design, along with film video and photography.

“The Design and Media Center is one more step in carrying out the college’s strategic plan to transform art and design education for all stakeholders,” MassArt Acting President Kurt Steinberg said.

Not to be left out of the loop, the New England Conservatory secured approval in June 2012 from the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) to develop a 135,000-square-foot student life and performance space and a 65,000-square-foot building called the Learning Center Project.

The larger of the two buildings proposes beds for 250 students, a music library, performance spaces, a new dining facility, and campus center on St. Botolph Street. The smaller building on Gainsborough Street would house practice facilities, administrative offices, a new visitors center and “ground-floor public amenities designed to publically showcase the musical talent of the (New England Conservatory) community,” according to BRA documents.

Carole Phelan, the conservatory’s vice president of communications, said there’s nothing in the ground yet on the proposed $85 million project. The conservatory is scheduled to begin construction in the summer of 2015, she said, and won’t likely open the buildings until the summer or fall of 2017.

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