Huntington Theatre gains new home as tower project wins approval
A project that would create a new home for the Huntington Theatre Co. while transforming the skyline along Huntington Avenue cleared a key hurdle Thursday evening.
The Boston Planning & Development Agency approved a 32-story apartment tower that would also house a refurbished and expanded Huntington in and alongside its ground floor. The $290 million development — along with improvements to the Huntington that will cost tens of millions of dollars — is on track to begin construction next year, its builders say.
The project is a partnership between the theater company and a trio of Boston developers, who in 2016 paid Boston University $25 million to buy the building that has housed the Huntington Theatre Co. for more than 35 years.
At the urging of City Hall, the development group — QMG Huntington LLC — and the theater group reached a deal by which the Huntington would own the theater building itself, and get a low-cost, 100-year lease for much of the lower two floors of a tower QMG would build next door. That will give Huntington an additional 14,000 square feet to run programming.
“This will allow us to expand our audience and amenities and create a new, small, performance venue,” said Michael Maso, managing director of the Huntington Theatre. “It’s a great opportunity.”
Huntington also will overhaul the theater itself, at its own expense. The theater company is launching a fund-raising drive, hoping to raise as much as $70 million for construction and to boost its endowment. A final target amount will depend on development costs, Maso said.
To help finance the project, QMG is asking for permission to build taller than is typical for that stretch of Huntington, which is lined by low-slung two-story buildings and elegant brick mid-rises. Its tower would rise 362 feet above the street, and house 426 apartments, extending the city’s “high spine” west of Massachusetts Avenue.
The height will help the building make economic sense, said Michael Vaughan, a spokesman for QMG, which, in turn, will help pay for the new theater.
“It allowed us and everyone to think more creatively about how we can keep the theater on site and still achieve a good project,” he said. “Everybody got what they wanted.”