Palm Beach Dramaworks To Buy Theater Outright On Monday

PBDExteriors01aBy Bill Hirschman

Palm Beach Dramaworks will purchase outright its new home in downtown West Palm Beach on Monday morning, several months earlier than planned, managing director Sue Ellen Beryl confirmed Thursday.

Dramaworks, one of the most high-profile success stories in Florida regional theater both financially and artistically, will hold a closing/mimosas-and-muffins party at the theater at 201 Clematis Street with dignitaries including former Mayor Lois Frankel who championed Dramaworks moving downtown and current Mayor Jeri Muoio.

“It says that we are here to stay,” Beryl said. “We knew we were; we bought the building. But this said we were not going to go south.” Some observers in Palm Beach County were justifiably skeptical given the collapse in 2011 of the seemingly invulnerable Florida Stage. “Perhaps there are people in the community who think, ‘Well, arts organizations can fail. But this was a good investment’.”

The troupe had planned to begin completing the purchase in the late fall with a closing near the end of the year. But patrons Don and Ann Brown of Palm Beach Gardens – for whom the theater has been renamed — agreed in January to accelerate the about $1.5 million of their prior $2 million pledge and just pay off the bill, Beryl said.

Dramaworks had worked closely with city officials for several years to find a home other than its long-time digs in two vest-pocket storefronts downtown. That dovetailed with officials’ desire to revitalize the Clematis Street area as an entertainment and dining hub.

Finally, in 2010, the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency agreed to buy the aging Cuillo Centre of the Arts for $2.85 million and lease it to Dramaworks for 20 years. Dramaworks then ripped out much of the interior and renovated the structure top to bottom into a state-of-the-art facility. With donations from many patrons after an intensive fund-raising campaign, Dramaworks began paying down the debt while paying rent. The theater produced its first show in the new space in November 2011.

Now in its 15th season, Dramaworks developed a reputation for fiscal prudence, never going into the red; for developing an audience seeking thought-provoking fare, and for networking with government and social leaders to become a part of the community.

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