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Future Use of Seattle Center Playhouse

A subcommittee of the Seattle Center Advisory Commission serving as the review panel for a Request for Proposals issued in May for tenancy of the Seattle Center Playhouse offered its recommendation to Seattle Center Director Robert Nellams. In a discussion with Nellams as well as a written evaluation of two proposals submitted in response to the RFP, the panel recommended that Seattle Center move forward in negotiations with Cornish College of the Arts.

 The recommendation comes at the end of a two-month review process in which the subcommittee evaluated two competing proposals, submitted by Theatre Puget Sound and Cornish, and met with each of the proposers to delve deeper into their plans for the performing arts venue.

 Two primary goals drove the evaluation process:  to secure a financially stable tenant that will effectively manage, operate and maintain the Playhouse facility; and to use the facility to support and foster the presentation of artistic and/or cultural activities in Seattle. In addition, the RFP established nine criteria by which the panel judged the proposals. The panel’s recommendation was based on these goals and criteria and consideration of public comments received.

 “Theatre Puget Sound provides an invaluable service to the arts community, and while I honor their proposal and their long standing partnership with Seattle Center, I view the panel’s decision as a practical one, especially in light of the Center’s need to minimize financial risks,” said Robert Nellams.

 The Playhouse has a long and distinguished history as a theater venue. Following the 1962 World’s Fair, the building became home to the newly formed Seattle Repertory Theatre. When the Seattle Rep moved to its new facility in 1983, the Playhouse was rented on a short term basis until 1986, when it underwent a $1.2 million renovation and reopened in 1987 as home to Intiman Theatre. In 1998 Intiman funded the addition of the studio/rehearsal hall on the south side of the building. Intiman Theatre’s tenancy will end in 2012.

 The Seattle Center Century 21 Master Plan, completed in 2008, designates the Playhouse as part of the Theatre District Zone, which emphasizes the vitality of the performing arts organizations along Mercer Street. The District is intended to create a unique place that embodies the power and excitement of the performing arts, both an urban environment and the edge of the Seattle Center campus.

 The panel’s recommendation carries the process forward to lease negotiations between Cornish and Seattle Center. Once completed, the proposed lease will go to the Seattle City Council for consideration and approval.  Documents and information on the Seattle Center Playhouse RFP are located on the Seattle Center website at: