For the grand total of $1, less than a cup of coffee pretty much anywhere in the neighborhood where it is located, the Boston Center for the Arts has purchased the Calderwood Pavilion from the Boston Planning & Development Agency.
The BCA had been leasing the high-profile venue from the city under a long-term agreement that contained a provision allowing for the ultra-inexpensive purchase, according to BCA president and CEO Gregory Ruffer and BPDA spokesperson Bonnie McGilpin. Home to several theaters and rehearsal spaces, the Calderwood Pavilion is an active part of the sprawling BCA complex on Tremont Street in the South End. It opened in 2004 as part of a complex deal that also involved developer Ronald M. Druker and the Huntington Theatre Company, which has been the primary manager of the facility.
The BCA made the purchase because the organization saw “an opportunity for us as a nonprofit to take control of our own destiny,’’ Ruffer said Wednesday by phone.
“It does put us on a firmer footing,’’ he added. “There is a space issue for theater companies and for artists, and I personally want to make sure that assets like the Calderwood Pavilion stay in the hands of nonprofits whose missions drive the people who get to use the space.’’
As part of the 2002 lease agreement — reviewed by the Globe — between the BCA and the Boston Redevelopment Authority (as the Boston Planning & Development Agency was then known), the BCA was granted an option to purchase the Calderwood for $1 “at any time prior to the fifteenth anniversary of the Commencement Date.’’
Ruffer, who has been head of the BCA for two years, said that he and the organization’s board concluded that “there was no reason not to’’ exercise the option to buy the property. He acknowledged some surprise that the step had not been taken sooner. The BCA had to spend around $30,000 on title insurance and other closing costs, he said.
A similar purchase-the-property-for-$1 provision is included in the BCA’s long-term lease with the BPDA for the rest of the complex on Tremont Street, according to Ruffer and McGilpin.
“Buying the rest of the property is certainly an option and it will be considered by the board,’’ Ruffer said in an e-mail.
The BCA is an independent nonprofit that supervises a complex that provides performance and rehearsal space to mid-sized and small theater troupes and exhibition and studio space to artists and arts organizations. The complex includes the Cyclorama, the Mills Gallery, and a pair of small theaters, in addition to the Calderwood Pavilion, which houses the Roberts Studio Theatre (home to the mid-size SpeakEasy Stage Company) and the Wimberly Theatre, which the large Huntington Theatre Company uses as a second stage. Smaller theater troupes also stage works in the venue.
The Calderwood Pavilion’s first theater performance took place on Oct. 8, 2004, with a Huntington production of Melinda Lopez’s “Sonia Flew.’’ As part of a bigger capital campaign, the Huntington had raised $14 million – including a $4 million gift from the Calderwood Charitable Foundation, established by the late Stanford Calderwood – for the building project.
The Huntington will continue to operate the Calderwood Pavilion, according to Ruffer. “Nothing changes at all,’’ he said. “I could not be more happy with the way the Huntington has operated it. It makes me very happy to know we are arm-in-arm with the Huntington to make the Calderwood Pavilion a great theater space.’’
In a statement, Huntington managing director Michael Maso said: “The Huntington’s stewardship of the Calderwood Pavilion is a core part of our fundamental commitment to supporting Boston’s cultural community. In addition to making the Calderwood our home for the production of new plays, the Huntington provides subsidized rentals to dozens of performing arts organizations and serves over 70,000 audience members at more than 500 performances and events each season. We appreciate our continued partnership with Greg Ruffer and the BCA in making the Calderwood the heart of the South End and a vibrant cultural destination in Boston.”