Bank forecloses on Suzanne Roberts Theatre

Posted: April 27, 2014

PHILADELPHIA The Philadelphia Theatre Company is no longer making mortgage payments on its Suzanne Roberts Theatre building at Broad and Lombard Streets. The troupe stopped paying the mortgage in May 2012, theater leaders say.

"We have been in negotiations with TD Bank about the mortgage for several years," said PTC board chairman E. Gerald Riesenbach. "In the course of those discussions, the bank foreclosed. We continue to discuss ongoing occupancy arrangements that will assure us of permanent residency in the SRT. We are confident of a positive resolution to those discussions. . . ."

A TD Bank spokeswoman declined to answer questions about the foreclosure and the bank's relationship with the theater. "As a matter of company policy, we don't comment on legal matters," she said.

The theater had a balance on its mortgage of a little more than $11 million as of August 2012, according to its most recent tax return. Even without the burden of the mortgage payments, the theater - which had an annual budget of just under $5 million in 2012 - is struggling financially. "We do have cash-flow issues," said Riesenbach.

He said positive developments are on the horizon. "We are at this current moment engaged in the late stages of discussions with a very significant donor that will once and for all put us on a very strong financial footing."

He declined to identify the size of the gift or its donor.

The gift would not go toward retiring the mortgage, but would be spent on operating costs, cash reserves, and current obligations. He said the theater ran a deficit in the fiscal year that ended Aug. 31, 2013, but that he was unsure of the amount.

Executive producing director Sara Garonzik did not respond to calls, but said in an e-mail the company continues to operate as it had, and that "PTC has no plans whatsoever to file for bankruptcy. Certainly, cash flow is always a challenge, but we have been working our way through it."

PTC opened its 365-seat Suzanne Roberts Theatre, adjacent to Symphony House, in 2007 with the help of $5 million from the state and $3 million from the city. But fund-raising to pay for the building was never finished. Occupancy costs and mortgage interest placed a heavy burden on the budget - more than $750,000 in 2012, tax returns show.

"The original economic model for the building never included funding a mortgage from operations. It was always intended that the payment of the mortgage would be from capital fund-raising," said Riesenbach. But, he said, the economy faltered several months after opening day: "The bottom dropped out of the world and capital fund-raising was not possible for several years."


pdobrin@phillynews.com

215-854-5611

www.inquirer.com/artswatch

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