Ballet finds new digs in city

The Pennsylvania Ballet has closed the deal on a $5.5 million site on North Broad.

Posted: June 29, 2007

The Pennsylvania Ballet is pointing its toe shoes northward to a new home.

The troupe, currently in rented studios and offices at Broad Street and Washington Avenue, has closed on a new site at 323-31 N. Broad St., just north of Vine Street.

The plan calls for three buildings there to be demolished, with one kept and renovated. When the new 40,000-square-foot facility is up and running, it will house the ballet's administration, wardrobe facilities and rehearsal studios.

The $5.5 million purchase was completed June 1, officials said.

"North Broad affords the ballet a huge amount of visibility, much more so than now," said executive director Michael G. Scolamiero. "It's just a nice part of town and a lot is happening there. It's a lot of land that we could not find anywhere else."

So much land, in fact, that the new facility will occupy just 40 percent of the plot. A black-box theater is dreamed of for the remaining land, but that would come at some point in the future, he said.

This first phase of the project is estimated at $14 million to $15 million, including acquisition and demolition, and the ballet has borrowed a portion of the purchase price, Scolamiero said. He declined to say exactly how much was borrowed.

Fund-raising, including a naming opportunity, has begun. A city grant of $1 million was announced yesterday, and the ballet has made a request for state funds.

"I think ideally the board feels we need to raise much of it as we go, so that we're not left with a mortgage," Scolamiero said. "That's not to say that at the end of five years we may not have a debt, and what that number will be, I don't know. But the board is not interested in a long-term mortgage."

The ballet once owned the building it occupies at Broad and Washington. The former car dealership was bought and renovated by them, and was seen by the company as a means to financial stability. But after defaulting on the mortgage, failing to pay debt and then settling with vendors and suffering other financial ills, the ballet sold the building to the Rock School, which separated from the ballet company in 1992.

The ballet has retained Erdy McHenry Architecture to design its new facility, which it expects will be ready for occupancy in two to three years.

In the meantime, the ballet's administrative offices will move at the end of this summer to rented space in Center City, while the company negotiates a lease extension for rehearsal studios at Broad and Washington.


Contact culture writer Peter Dobrin at 215-854-5611 or pdobrin@philllynews.com.

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