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City Staff have recommended that the City lease the space formerly used as the Police Department outpost at 633 Howard St. to Strawdog Theatre for 18 months, to be used for rehearsals and office space.

Martin Lyons, Assistant City Manager, and Johanna Leonard, Economic Development Division Manager, said in a memorandum presented to City Council that the lease “is for a temporary occupancy in support of the City’s efforts to bring Strawdog Theatre Company to Howard Street.” Since mid-2015, the City has been working with Strawdog to relocate to buildings owned by the City at 717 and 721-23 Howard St.

After going through a Request for Qualifications in 2015, the City identified Strawdog as the preferred theater to negotiate with for a new theater space on Howard Street, says the staff memo, adding, “A key component of the City’s revitalization efforts on Howard Street is the creation of live performance spaces.” The memo does not give the seating capacity of the proposed new theater.

If approved, the City would lease 633 Howard St. to Strawdog at a rent of $1,200 per month. If Strawdog ultimately locates its new theater space to Howard Street, the rent paid for 633 Howard St. would be credited toward any rent due for the proposed new theater at 717, 721-23 Howard St. This suggests that the City may build the theater and rent it to Strawdog.

Perhaps the larger question is the cost of a new theater, and who will pay the cost. The staff memo pegs the cost of the new theater at between $5.5 million and $5.67 million, and it appears that the plan is to use TIF funds to pay for a large part of the cost. Staff memo says, “The Howard/Ridge tax increment financing (TIF) district is likely to be a key source of funds for the TIF district.”

The memo does not break down the costs or any continuing capital and building operating costs the City might incur in connection with the project.