Theatres in the Archive Building Saved
GOOD NEWS FOR OOB!
The four theatres that are currently housed in the Federal Archive Building on Christopher Street (Wings Theatre, Theater for a New Audience, Interborough Repertory Theater and Epiphany Theatre) have been given a reprieve. Thanks to the dedicated work of City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Community Board 2, other city and state agencies and the attention of concerned and outspoken members of our community, these theatres along with four other non-profits will be able to keep their homes.
The state owns the full-square block building, but entered into a 99 year lease agreement with the Rockrose Development Corporation in 1982. As a part of the arrangements, the corporation was required to provide low-cost rent for a number of non-profit community based organizations. When the deal was originally struck the fair market value for rent in the building was determined to be $5 per square foot. Rockrose was obligated to provide space for the non-profit organizations at no more than 80% of the market value and so rent was set at $4 per square foot for these occupants.
During the quarter of a century since the initial agreement, the neighborhood around the Archive Building has been revitalized. From the once despondent, far-flung perimeter of Greenwich Village to one of the poshest areas of town filled with luxury apartments and chic boutiques and the cost of real estate in the neighborhood has reflected these improvements. So, when the agreement ended in October of 2008, the non-profit tenants of the Archive Building were informed that their rent would be increased to the current fair market value of $25 per square foot; for some, this meant a nearly 500% increase. It also meant that the four theatres, running on a shoestring budget and staffed with volunteers, could no longer afford their spaces and most would be forced out.
After months of debates and negotiations, it was discovered that the Rockrose Corporation could not legally increase the tenants’ rent without first obtaining the state’s approval. And, a new agreement has been reached, which allows the non-profits to continue to enjoy the $4 per square foot base rent with a modest 3% annual increase to cover inflation.
Christine Quinn is quoted as saying “It is all too familiar a story in the Village to hear about longtime neighborhood fixtures being forced out because they can no longer afford to stay in the communities they made great.”
We are glad that these OOB companies were spared this fate and look forward to many more seasons of groundbreaking, innovative theatre.
Rent drama at Archive has a surprising dénouement - The Villager, 2/3/09
PURE GOLD: Newsflash - Real Estate Development Corporation Does Right By the Community! - SoHo Journal, 2/7/09
Village Nonprofit Groups Say They Are Surprised by a Steep Rise in Rents - New York Times, 10/13/08