Playhouse expansion to net town $103,000

A draft lease expanding the Ridgefield Playhouse’s occupancy in the Venus Building would bring the town as landlord roughly $103,000 a year — $68,000 a year in rent, and $35,000 in utility charges.

The proposed lease was discussed by the Board of Selectmen and Playhouse representatives, including executive director Allison Stockel and attorney Suzie Rabinowitz, on Oct. 24.

“This has been on our docket for years. We’re coming to the finish line — hopefully,” First Selectman Rudy Marconi said.

Both parties are hoping to get the proposed lease wrapped up and approved — it’s expected to require a vote of the Board of Selectmen, but not a town meeting — later this fall.

“You think we’ll be able to get this signed by year-end? That’s comfortable for everyone?” Rabinowitz asked.

Due to renovations, it would still likely be a year or more before spaces in the building are occupied.

The Playhouse organization would continue its $1-a-year rental of the old high school auditorium that’s the venue where it stages shows, along with a backstage space and an adjacent first-floor concession area.

In addition to the $1-a-year rent, there would be a utility charge — on a rising scale from $2.05 per square foot in 2018 to $4.36 per square foot by the lease’s end n 2037 — expected to bring the town $34,900 or more a year to cover heat and electricity for the 17,045-square-foot space.

“You’re definitely not losing money on the utilities,” Stockel told the selectmen.

School board offices

The proposed lease also envisions the Playhouse eventually paying the town another $68,100 in rent for the second floor Venus Building space currently occupied by Board of Education offices.

The school board offices are expected to move to the first floor of the south wing of the Venus building — the former RVNA area — freeing up the area they currently occupy, which the Playhouse will be renting.

Before the school offices move, the south wing will be renovated, with Chef’s Warehouse handing second floor renovations and the town doing the first floor.

“First of all, there’ll be a bump-out on the facade of the building — facing south — with a new elevator and entrance,” Marconi said.

Lower level

Smaller tenants now in the south wing are moving — some to lower level area of the Venus Building, where shop classes were held when it was a high school, some to space in the town hall annex.

“The lower level will still have accommodations for groups like the VFW, and a room for the Playhouse, that serves as their rehearsal space. And Kumon Math will be in Yanity in the old Growing Tree,” Marconi said. “Adult ed is now located in the annex. The Youth Service Bureau is located in the annex. And Loosen Up Massage Therapy relocated to a private building in town.”


Renovations in the Venus Building south wing are beginning with demolition and asbestos abatement by Select Demolition, Marconi said.

After the demolition is done, potential bidders on the renovation work will be taken through the building and the job will be put out to bid.

The renovations are expected to take a year or a year and a half.

“The optimists are saying 12 months, we’ll be done,” Marconi said to the selectmen. “I don’t buy that. I’d like to leave 18 months.”

So it’ll be some time before the old Board of Education offices are ready for the Playhouse.

“When I’m asked — and I am asked — I’m going to say a goal is having them move toward the end of 2019,” Stockel said to the selectmen.

The second floor of the Venus Building south wing, about 8,000 square feet, has been rented to Chefs’ Warehouse. That lease was approved by the selectmen Sept. 26.

Chefs’ Warehouse will have occupancy of virtually the entire second floor of the Venus Building — about 29,000 square feet — for a rent that rises from $496,000 to about $526,000 a year.

“From a revenue point of view,” Selectman Steve Zemo said, “we’re ahead for the campus.”