Riverside Theatre Building Its Own Housing For Visiting Artists

By Oline H. Cogdill

Providing housing for professionals has become a major expense for many theaters. Actors Equity rules require that a professional theater provide housing for those who live more than 50 miles away.   

The Riverside Theatre in Vero Beach has come up with a solution—build its own housing.

Star Suites by Riverside Theatre, an Actor’s Housing Project, will be built to accommodate out-of-town actors, designers, directors and artists who work or perform at Riverside Theatre. The $8 million facility will feature 60 one-bedroom units and will include a center courtyard, clubhouse, and garden terrace for outside gatherings.

Currently, Riverside Theatre leases 25 apartments on a year-round basis to house artists. The Riverside Theatre rents at eight different locations in the area and functions like a hotel since it furnishes, cleans and maintains each apartment throughout the year. “That adds up,” said spokesman Oscar Sales Jr.

It also sustains a partnership at the height of the season with SpringHill Suites by Marriott when more rooms are needed.

With annual rental costs continuing to escalate rapidly, Riverside has been looking for a permanent solution to cover the theater’s needs of more than 10,000 room nights every year.

In addition, Vero Beach’s rental housing market continues to be tight with escalating rents during the last few years. Sometimes, short-term leasing is unavailable, or the quality of the housing may not be suitable. In the past, the theatre occasionally used private homes.  

“This Actor’s Village is a project that will lead the theater into our future,” stated Heidi Waxlax, president of the Board of Trustees in a press release. “We needed to find a solution to the logistical difficulties faced by our staff and management who struggle to find adequate, affordable, and available housing for guest artists – a major component to our success.”

During select times when rooms are not being used by artists, they will be made available to the public.

Star Suites is applauded by actors who have worked at the Riverside, and will add to the sense of being part of a community that professionals say they feel when working at the theater.

Actor Laura Hodos lives in Orlando, but works all over the state. “One of the biggest costs of a theater is housing for actors. And I know for actors, there’s so much stress involved in hoping that a theater will be able to provide it. New actor housing for Riverside Theatre will be the cherry on top the delicious, creativity and talent-filled sundae that is their entire operation. Working on Riverside Goes to the Movies was a joy, and top notch from beginning to end! From preproduction through to closing, all worry was taken from my mind, so that all I had to do was make art,” Hodos added.

“I loved working at Riverside over the years,” said South Florida actor Elizabeth Dimon, whose last appearance at the Riverside was her critically acclaimed role in Souvenir during the 2008-2009 season. “I felt a part of the community, all the while putting up beautiful shows on marvelous sets designed by the very talented Allen Cornell. I made some life lasting friendships in the 10 or more shows I did working there. Riverside is a gem to have in our state.”

LLW Architects, Inc. of Memphis has been selected as the architectural firm designing the facility with Kimley-Horn serving as the civil engineers and Proctor Construction as construction manager.

Keith Kite, a longtime supporter of Riverside and owner of Kite Properties, has provided assistance in estimating the capital and operational costs of the facility and will help manage the property after construction is completed.

Most of the money has already been donated for the project, although the theater is actively seeking the last portion, Sales said. Ground breaking is expected to take place in November. The facility will be completed by October 2018, in time for the start of the Theatre’s 2018-2019 Season. 

Star Suites by Riverside Theatre will be located on the corner of Aviation Boulevard and Flight Safety Drive, adjacent to Historic Dodgertown and less than a mile from the Vero Beach Regional Airport Terminal.

For more information on donations for Star Suites by Riverside Theatre, contact Kate Gill at kateg@riversideheatre.com or by phone at 772-410-0481. For more information on the project, contact Raymond J. McGowan at raysr@themcgowans.com or by phone at 772-453-9524.

Built in 1973 on a 54-acre tract of land designated by the city of Vero Beach as a cultural park, the venue has grown from the home of a community theater and later a children’s theater into an expansive Eyuity professional company with a League of Resident Theaters contract, now entering its 20th season.

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