- May 25, 2006
- Reaction score
I don't think this project has it's own thread. Now it does.
Banker & Tradesman said:BRA Expected to Approve Suffolk?s Plan for Theater
By Thomas Grillo
Suffolk University wants to create dormitories on the upper floors of Boston?s Modern Theatre.
The Boston Redevelopment Authority on Wednesday is expected to approve Suffolk University?s bid to restore the Modern Theatre in the city?s Downtown Crossing area and turn the upper floors into dormitories.
?Suffolk is excited about not only adding more student housing but becoming a part of restoring a little bit of the Boston?s historic culture,? said John Nucci, Suffolk?s vice president of government and community affairs.
Under the proposal, Suffolk will refurbish the 94-year-old building?s exterior and build a 12-story tower with up to 200 dorms for undergraduate students. Ground-floor uses will include a performing arts theater and gallery. The landmark at 523-525 Washington St. has been boarded up since the 1980s.
A BRA spokeswoman said Suffolk was the only applicant in response to its Request for Proposals. Suffolk may have been the logical candidate for the project because it owns the adjacent building at 10 West St. In July, the BRA approved the university?s plan to convert the 7-story facility at the corner of West and Washington streets into student housing.
Nucci said Suffolk?s interest in the Modern was spurred by the neighborhood and the need for more on campus housing for its undergraduates.
?As Suffolk talked about doing 10 West, abutters at the Ritz-Carlton Towers and Tremont on the Commons urged us to do something about the Modern because it is such an eyesore,? he recalled.
Suffolk has been looking to increase its number of beds. In December, Mayor Thomas M. Menino withdrew its support for Suffolk?s plans to build a dormitory tower on Beacon Hill due to strong neighborhood opposition.
The university has 4,700 undergraduates. When the Modern and West Street projects are completed, the school will house 24 percent or 1,219 of its students. Suffolk?s goal is to have dorms for 50 percent of its undergrads over the next two decades.
?Such a Win?
Sarah D. Kelly, executive director of the Boston Preservation Alliance, said the Modern is the last of a trio of crumbling theaters on Washington Street that the Menino administration had pledged to save. In 1995, the mayor convinced the National Trust for Historic Preservation to include the Paramount Theatre, the Opera House and the Modern on its ?Most Endangered List? to raise awareness about the need for preserving those links to Boston?s past.
In 2004, Clear Channel Entertainment completed a $38 million renovation of the storied Opera House. Last year, the BRA approved Emerson College?s $77 million Paramount Center project.
That development will include restoration of the Paramount Theatre, the Art Deco building completed in 1932. The project consists of 145,000 square feet of new construction in the adjacent Arcade Building including a restaurant, classrooms, dorms, faculty offices, practice rooms, 1,900 square feet of rehearsal rooms, a sound stage and several small theaters. Completion is expected next year.
The Modern was built in 1876 to house furniture and carpet showrooms. In 1913, theater architect C.H. Blackall designed a narrow cinema in the Ruskinian Gothic-style building. It was designed specifically for the exhibition of moving pictures, which was then a new medium.
Blackall added a 2-story white marble facade. In 1927, ?The Jazz Singer,? starring Al Jolson, premiered at the cinema. It tells the story of the son of a Jewish cantor who defies his father?s wishes to pursue his dream of becoming a jazz singer. Tickets were 15 cents.
After operating for 35 years as the Modern, the building was renamed the Mayflower Theater in 1949. It continued to show movies, although some historians say vaudeville also was performed in the theater in the 1930s. But by the early 1970s, the cinema was showing pornographic films, mirroring the decline along lower Washington Street that was dubbed the ?Combat Zone.?
Anne Meyers, president of the Downtown Crossing Association, hailed Suffolk?s selection. ?Getting someone to do something about the Modern that is financially feasible is such a win for everyone,? she said. ?The dorms are a good use, that building has been just sitting there and this is a great opportunity to complete the restoration of the block.?