Huntington Theatre Announces Two-Phase Construction Renovations

Huntington Theatre Company has announced the start of major construction of The Huntington Theatre, its historic home on Huntington Avenue, beginning an 18-month construction period that will restore, renovate, and modernize the 95-year-old Boston landmark.

In order to optimize the time of the theatre’s forced closure due to the pandemic, The Huntington has accelerated the timeline of its renovation plan with the goal of reopening the storied venue in the fall of 2022. This revised renovation plan requires an innovative phased approach: phase one includes the restoration of the theatre building, the renovation of the adjoining service building which houses dressing rooms, a rehearsal room and function space, and will include new lobby space, an elevator that serves all floors, new restrooms, and a new accessible-to-all entrance as part of the renovation; phase 2 of the project will include expanded lobby spaces and public spaces in the neighboring residential tower once it is complete. The Huntington remains committed to the full scope of the project.

“The Huntington Theatre has been home to so many extraordinary productions over the past four decades,” says Managing Director Michael Maso. “We now have the opportunity to restore this gem of a theatre to its former architectural glory, while also enhancing it with new, modern amenities to serve our artists, our audiences, and our community. And after a year of the theatre being dark, it is thrilling to announce that there is once again energy and activity in the building, as we plan for an exciting future.”

Built in 1925 as the first not-for-profit playhouse in the US, The Huntington Theatre was acquired from developers QMG Huntington by the HuntingtonTheatre Company on a permanent basis in 2017, through the assistance of the city of Boston when Boston University put the building up for sale.

This major renovation will address the sorely needed maintenance and updating of the almost century-old building, providing critical upgrades of all mechanical systems from HVAC to the electrical wiring, making the facility accessible to all, and bringing the building into the 21st century with sustainable and universal design.  

At the same time, the project will also restore and revitalize the key architectural features of this historic gem, highlighting the beauty of the original building, while providing modern comforts and amenities both in public areas and behind the scenes. These substantial improvements to the venue will allow The Huntington to expand its services to artists, audiences, staff, young people, and the community at large.

While the theatre is undergoing this transformation, The Huntington Theatre Company plans to produce a full season of theatre for 21/22 mainly at its Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA in the South End, beginning in late August 2021.

“When The Huntington built the Calderwood Pavilion in 2004, it was an important first step for us to expand our mission and dedication to our communities beyond the Avenue of the Arts and it was a transformational moment for us as a company,” says Maso. “We will now embark on another such journey, reinvigorating The Huntington’s original, historic location creating a dynamic new center for creativity in the heart of our city.”

•Capital Campaign Progress

Led by Capital Campaign Chair Ann Merrifield and Vice Chair and Huntington Board President Sharon Malt, the Huntington’s capital campaign The Campaign for The New Huntington: A Storied Venue with a Bold Vision has made significant progress, already raising over $81.5 million towards a comprehensive goal of $110 million (which includes annual fund giving for the duration of the campaign and funds to increase the theatre’s endowment and reserves). 

The Campaign for The New Huntington is both an investment in the diverse cultural fabric of Boston,” says Campaign Chair Merrifield, “And a promise that The Huntington will serve even more artists, audiences, and young people for years to come.”

Huntington Board Chairman David Epstein and Trustee Betsy Epstein have committed $9 million as a “non-naming” leadership gift to ensure that The Huntington Theatre retains its name for generations to come. “My wife Betsy and I are proud to support The Huntington in this transformational moment for the company,” says David Epstein. “Theatre is essential – The Huntington has the power to inspire people and bring us together for meaningful collective experiences, and we are happy to help secure The Huntington’s legacy for the future.”

•Renovation Plan Highlights:

*The auditorium will be reimagined with new theatre seating, improved sightlines, and new acoustic systems which will ensure a high quality and comfortable audience experience

*The new theatre seats will be wider with more legroom, and the seating configuration will change to accommodate an increased number of accessible seats and several rows of continental seating (continuous rows across the theatre) at the front of the orchestra and mezzanine; formerly housing 890 seats, the new configuration will have approximately 750 seats

*Major upgrades to all systems, including an all-new elevator serving all floors, HVAC and sprinkler systems, and electrical wiring; The Huntingtonis also consulting with Harvard professor and Director of the Healthy Buildings program Joseph G. Allen and his 9 Foundations team to include high quality ventilation and filtration systems 

*A full upgrade and modernization of all staff, crew, and artist support spaces to better aid our personnel and serve our productions

*A new arcade main entrance created in the spirit of universal design allows all visitors to enter together, with a ramp from the sidewalk level to accommodate accessibility needs and the loading of scenery to the backstage area

*A newly enclosed arcade on the second level, providing a gallery convening space connecting the historic theatre and new 2nd floor lobby space

*The 2nd floor rehearsal hall and event space will be rehabilitated, including the restoration of the wood paneling and the revealing and refurbishing of beautiful windows that have long been bricked and boarded up

*Brand new, elegant, all-gender restrooms will serve all theatregoers in an equitable, inclusive, and dignified way; (notably, the theatre previously had only nine toilets in the public restrooms available to women, and now all theatregoers will have equal access to 29).

The principal architect of the Huntington Theatre project is Jason Forney of Bruner Cott and Associates, working alongside Nurit Zuker, Karen Greene, and Rima Abouseleiman.

The construction process will last approximately 18 months, and The Huntington Theatre is expected to reopen in the fall of 2022. The $110 million capital campaign includes $64 million for the anticipated costs of construction ($55  million for phase one, including the theatre renovation, the initial enabling project, and relocation of The Huntington Production Center and administrative offices, and $9 million for phase 2 respectively); the remaining balance supports growth in our operations during the campaign period and increases to endowment and reserve funds to safeguard the company’s future.

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