Florida Repertory Theatre Purchases Historic Arcade Theatre, Bradford Block, And Adjacent Parking Lot
Florida Repertory Theatre’s leadership and Board of Directors are pleased to announce it has purchased the Bradford block in downtown Fort Myers, which contains the Historic Arcade Theatre, ArtStage Studio Theatre, and other Florida Rep facilities, as well as the parking lot across Bay Street. This milestone purchase was made possible by multiple transformational gifts from a group of anonymous donors, given solely for the company to purchase the property. The acquisition secures the company’s future into its next twenty-one years and beyond.
“For the first time in our twenty-one-year history, we will own the theatre and the parking lot,” said Florida Rep Board Chairman Marc Laviolette. “It gives us the self-determination which we never had and the opportunity to apply for grant dollars that were unavailable because we didn’t own our facility.”
In addition to the theatre’s two stages, other facilities, and the parking lot, the Bradford block contains twenty commercial units and forty-two residential units. Florida Rep currently rents twelve of the residential units for visiting artists working at the theatre.
The 110,000 square foot parking lot is essential to the theatre’s daily operations and is a significant selling point for patrons visiting downtown six nights per week during the theatre’s busy season. The acquisition of the parking lot puts the theatre in control of its usage and ensures that no matter how downtown continues to grow, theatre patrons will always have a place to park when coming to the theatre.
Florida Repertory Theatre is a 501 (c) 3 charitable organization, and it has set up a separate LLC with appropriate professional management to maintain, operate, and oversee the acquired, non-theatre-related real estate.
“As one of the top regional theatre companies in the United States, we are dedicated to producing great work and impactful outreach. We don’t intend to go into the real estate business,” said Florida Rep Artistic Director Greg Longenhagen. “Florida Rep is and will continue to be a cultural hub both in downtown and for all of Southwest Florida, and this purchase only strengthens our position as an economic driver and artistic anchor for the River District. We look forward to this next chapter in our growth.”
Talks with Bill Smith, Inc., the longtime owner of the downtown property, began in early 2019 and progressed smoothly throughout the due diligence and contracting process. “We are so pleased to be able to work with the Smith family to do this deal,” Longenhagen said. “They saw this as an opportunity to preserve not only the history of the Bradford property but also to cement Florida Repertory Theatre’s legacy as part of the cultural fabric of downtown. The Smith Family has always been a partner in Florida Rep’s success, and we are honored to take on the property and to honor their 40-year history as its owner.”
The anonymous donors made clear that the donated funds only be used for the purchase of the site. As always, Florida Rep will continue to rely on ticket sales, grants, sponsorships, and especially the generous donations from individual members of our community. The support of its donors makes it possible for Florida Rep to provide Broadway-quality theatre at accessible prices to over 90,000 patrons annually and to sustain its ever-growing educational programs that reach over 35,000 young people across Lee, Collier, Hendry, Charlotte, and Glades counties each year.
“This purchase is so important because, while Florida Rep has always been strong, its future was never fully secure because we didn’t own the Arcade and ArtStage Theatres or the parking lot,” said Board Chairman Laviolette. “Now we no longer have to worry about that.”
Florida Repertory Theatre’s 21st season closed on May 19 and boasted record-breaking attendance, extended performance runs, and some artistic and educational milestones. The theatre’s 2019-2020 9-show season is set to open Sept. 24th with the musical, “Always…Patsy Cline” in the ArtStage Studio Theatre and Ken Ludwig‘s “The Fox on the Fairway” on Oct. 29th in the Historic Arcade Theatre. Tickets and subscriptions are available through the box office at 239-332-4488 and online at www.FloridaRep.org.