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BU Theatre, Adjoining Buildings Sell for $25 Million

Money will support new facilities on Charles River Campus


The BU Theatre, which the University put on the real estate market in October, is under agreement to be sold for $25 million to an investment group that is working with Boston-area developer John Matteson. The sale includes the 890-seat theater at 264 Huntington Avenue and the adjoining buildings at 252 and 258 Huntington Avenue.

Gary Nicksa, BU senior vice president for operations, says the money from the sale of the three buildings will help pay for the construction of a new performance studio space on the Charles River Campus, part of an improvement of College of Fine Arts facilities valued at more than $50 million. The new facilities, which will include a 250-seat studio theater and production spaces in the 820-846 area of Commonwealth Avenue, are planned to open in fall 2017.

Nicksa says that when the University put its Huntington Avenue properties on the market last fall, it promised the Huntington Theatre Company, which has used the buildings for 34 years, rent-free use of the facilities through June 2017, a full year beyond the then-existing agreement between the University and the theater company. He says that guarantee, which includes maintenance and utilities of the buildings, represents a cost to the University of about $1.4 million. That agreement is included in the sale of the properties, and the University is assuming that cost.

Matteson says he is currently talking to the Huntington Theatre Company about the possibility of its continued use of the property after the June 2017 date. “The conversation with the theater group, with assistance from City Hall, is going very well,” he says. “We are fans of the theater. We would like to make sure that we maintain a theater on the Avenue of the Arts, as that part of Huntington Avenue is designated.”

Boston University has owned the theater for 62 years, and has worked in partnership with the Huntington Theatre Company since its beginning in 1982, providing space and financial support valued at more than $40 million. The adjoining buildings have given BU theater students a place to work with theater company staff to create scenery, props, and costumes.

Jean Morrison, University provost and chief academic officer, says the decision to sell the buildings came down to determining the best way to serve BU’s theater students and faculty, who are currently separated from their acting, fine arts, and music colleagues on the Charles River Campus whenever they are working at the theater.

The University’s decision to sell the theater, which ended the long relationship between the University and the highly regarded Huntington Theatre Company, coincided with an announcement last fall that Emerson College was considering repurposing the historic Colonial Theatre downtown, and was met with concern by many in the Boston arts community.

In October, a statement issued jointly by the University and the Huntington Theatre Company noted that both institutions have agreed to be thoughtful and supportive of each other as they go their separate ways.

CFA plans to continue to stage large and small productions traditionally performed at the BU Theatre and its Lane-Comley Studio 210 through the 2017 spring semester. Morrison says that while the University has no plans to build a new proscenium theater, its fully staged operas, musicals, and other major shows will be performed at proscenium stages around Boston through rental agreements similar to those of the School of Music’s biannual performances at Boston’s Symphony Hall.

Art Jahnke

Art Jahnke can be reached at jahnke@bu.edu.

8 Comments on BU Theatre, Adjoining Buildings Sell for $25 Million

  • Former D&P Student on 03.21.2016 at 8:33 pm

    Selling the theatre complex to a company that will only turn it into condos is disgusting. BU’s action truly holds a mirror up to the nature of a University that doesn’t care for heritage or history, but only the bottom line. Throwing away the relationship with the Huntington only puts the final nail in the coffin of what was once a successful and admired technical theatre program. With this step Jim Petosa, Jon Savage, and the rest of the CFA faculty who support this have chosen to accept the mediocracy of a generic liberal arts theatre program as opposed to embracing the strengths that were offered by the conservatory style program they throw away.
    None of this considers the truly amateur way in which they’ve handled this entire process with their alumni. I see no reason to continue to support this program after they sell the theatre, and will continue to suggest that prospective students look elsewhere if they want a degree to be proud of.

    I come across as angry, and rightfully so. However I think it is important to point out that I have nothing but respect and appreciation to many of the teachers who helped me become as successful as I am now.

    • Do we need more condos? on 03.22.2016 at 9:37 am

      252 Huntington,258 Huntington ,264 Huntington. One great theater torn down and in it’s place,many many condo units with very little sidewalk or street level attraction. Once again our beloved city and it’s vibrant sidewalks are being turned into walls of glass.
      Thank you former D&P Student .

  • mark Slavin on 03.22.2016 at 7:43 am

    She is a grand old lady that has been part of the city so long any other use than a Theater would be a tragic mistake . Congratulation Northeastern Hockey for winning Hockey east Championship .

  • Dave on 03.22.2016 at 8:33 am

    BU is coming up with that money BY selling the Huntington buildings.

    • Former D&P Student on 03.22.2016 at 9:36 am

      No, they’ve commited a total of $50 million to the project, $25 million from the sale of the theatre and $25 million from the University.

  • Aninimouse on 03.22.2016 at 9:52 am

    We had a theater?

  • Jeffrey on 03.22.2016 at 10:17 am

    I’m a current student who is quite pleased with the commitment that Boston University has made to the CFA/School of Theater. The divestiture of an aging facility on a pricy chunk of Huntington Ave real estate seems to me a prudent decision that has at its core a focus on improved academic outcomes. Consolidating programs on the Charles River Campus will be a huge change for sure. This decision was clearly about the future and while I won’t be around to see the new building, I’ll expect the program to continue to be a top tier school with or without the vocational opportunities previously offered with the Huntington partnership.

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