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12th Avenue Tenants Revealed

12th Avenue Arts Tenants Revealed

What’s the worst-kept secret on Capitol Hill? The future occupants of the art space being planned as part of the $38 million 12th Avenue Arts development.

A pronouncement was made at the Washington Ensemble Theatre’s annual gala that WET would join forces with New Century Theatre Company and Strawberry Theatre Workshop to occupy the space collectively as the Monk Group. The blogs buzzed. But the developer is mum.

“We’re still in negotiations on that,” said director of fund development Michael Seiwerath when reached at the offices of the developer Capitol Hill Housing. “It’s a very leaky story, as you can see. We’re still in talks. Hopefully later in the month we’ll have news.”

As of press time, they did not have news. What Seiwarath could reveal was this: After posting a call for proposals on Sept. 1, Capitol Hill Housing received two serious bids, both from separate consortia of Capitol Hill performance groups. One of them, he said, was selected and is currently in negotiations.

The theatre groups are somewhat less tight-lipped.

“I don’t think there is, like, a gag order,” said Strawberry Theatre Workshop artistic director Greg Carter. “We were selected and that’s a done deal. There certainly are scenarios where there could be a catastrophe and the building doesn’t happen or Strawberry Theatre Workshop goes out of business, but any reasonable person can look at this and see that it’s going to happen.”

Barring Armageddon, the 12th Avenue Arts building will open in 2014 with 88 units of affordable housing, a restaurant, underground parking for the police and two theatres (150 and 80 capacity spaces). It’s a game-changing space for a community that has seen affordable arts spaces dwindle. The excitement is difficult to contain.

“We couldn’t possibly make this project happen on our own,” Carter said. “This is a $38 million building and we are theatre companies that are barely able to raise $35,000 a year. This is a very unique situation.”

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