Several months ago we published a South Kingston Patch.com article about the expansion into East Greenwich by Theatre by the Sea operator, Ocean State Theatre.
This new Patch.com article explains how that deal fell through and alternate plans.
by Elizabeth McNamara
The Ocean State Theatre Company is no longer looking to the building at 461 Main Street in East Greenwich to locate its year-round operation.
The company currently operates a summer theater program at Theatre-by-the-Sea in Matunuck but has been looking for additional space for several years. It still plans to lease Theatre-by-the-Sea, but that theater is only available 14 weeks a year – for the summer season.
“We were not able to come to mutually agreeable terms with the landlord (in East Greenwich),” said Amiee Turner, producing artistic director and president of OSTC, on Tuesday. They are now looking at a property on Jefferson Boulevard in Warwick, she said.
According to Turner, alterations on the building were needed to accommodate a theater as well as for the building as a whole. The building, owned by EG resident Allen Gammons, was originally a furniture company. In recent years, it has housed a variety of tenants, from an insurance company and exercise venues to an antiques mall and a kitchen store.
Turner had said that OSTC was looking for office space, educational space and a performance space. The building at 461 Main St. could fulfill all those needs, she said. They had hired an architect to develop plans to convert the building into a theater and had begun to apply for the various permissions that would be required by the town to locate in a theater there.
According to both Turner and Gammons, it wasn’t town regulations that killed the deal. In fact, both said the town was supportive and helpful throughout the process. Rather, the trouble hinged on who would pay for alterations and what types of alterations were actually necessary.
Turner said that OSTC was willing to pay for theater-related renovations, but that the company expected Gammons to pay for additional alterations.
Gammons said that the architect’s plans for the building went beyond what he could afford, in light of what he called was the “warehouse-rate rent” he had agreed to charge. He said he had agreed to put in new heating and air conditioning for the building but that the company's plans also called for an additional interior staircase and new ceilings.
“I couldn’t absorb that kind of cost with the kind of lease we were talking about,” said Gammons Tuesday. Because of the building’s age, he said, the town would have entertained granting variances for such additions as an outdoor staircase (instead of the most costly indoor one proposed by the architect). “The architect drew the plans as if it were a new building,” he said.
“It was a difficult decision to let it go. It’s too bad,” he said. Gammons said he would continue to make improvements to the building - including electrical updates and the new heating and air conditioning system - in hopes of finding a tenant or tenants.
Gammons did find a silver lining, he said. “I thought the town - [Town Manager] Bill Sequino, the building inspector, the fire marshall and fire chief - went out of their way, which is encouraging to me.”
As for Turner and OSTC, “We were very disappointed when the process broke down,” she said. “It’s very disappointing to us that there wasn’t more flexibility.
“We were very excited about the community of East Greenwich and the downtown location,” she said. “How many buildings like that are you going to find?”
Still, she said, “at the end of the day, excitement doesn’t negotiate a deal.”