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Emerson Colonial Theatre’s new general manager is a lobbyist, too

Erica Lynn Schwartz Chris Morris for The Boston Globe

Erica Lynn Schwartz knew she had signed up for long days when she moved here from Florida to take the job of general manager with Ambassador Theatre Group at the newly revived Emerson Colonial Theatre.

But she didn’t know she’d be squeezing a new role into her busy days: State House lobbyist.

Since registering as a lobbyist last month, Schwartz has visited legislative leaders to push for tax credits for theatrical productions that debut in Massachusetts and are bound either for New York or a national tour.

She’s had some assistance from Jack Hart of the Nelson Mullins law firm; Hart played a key role in economic development bills during his time as a state senator from South Boston. Lawmakers who are helping the cause include Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante and Senator Nick Collins.


Schwartz seems to enjoy the lobbying, which she calls “a joyful part” of her job. (It probably helps that the State House is a short walk across the Common from the Colonial.)

The House this month added production tax credits that would be capped at $5 million a year to its version of the latest economic development bill. Time is running out, though, with lawmakers set to end formal sessions for the year on July 31.

Schwartz says high-profile shows provide a huge spillover effect because cast and crew spend extra time in town rehearsing. And big shows are a big draw for tourists, she says. “Moulin Rouge!” is the musical playing at the Colonial now; roughly half of the tickets have been sold to people from out-of-state, including more than 2,500 from New York state.

These days, the nearly 120-year-old theater is a beehive of activity, with about 200 people working on “Moulin Rouge!” But it wasn’t always this way. The 1,700-seat theater went dark three years ago, and many in the theater community feared for its future


But ATG signed a long-term lease last year with Emerson College, the building’s owner, to bring the theater back to life. ATG then recruited Schwartz from the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami to manage its new Boston property.

“I had to jump at the opportunity here, [because of] the rich history of the Colonial, just to be a part of that legacy and a part of carrying that forward,” Schwartz says.


Housing advocate says he’s priced out

One of Cambridge’s leading housing advocates is leaving town. Because of the cost of housing.

Jesse Kanson-Benanav, founder of A Better Cambridge, which argues for more housing development to lower costs in the booming city, posted on Facebook last week that he and his spouse are moving to Jamaica Plain, where they could afford to buy a house.

A longtime renter in Cambridge’s Wellington-Harrington neighborhood, Kanson-Benanav described the bittersweet emotion of becoming a homeowner, but leaving a city he loves.

He said in an e-mail that he and his spouse, who both work for nonprofits, had been “casually looking” in Cambridge for four years, but found nothing that matched their budget. When they got serious this year, their real estate agent “straight up told us not to consider Cambridge when she heard our price range.” So off to JP, where they found a two-bedroom they could afford, close to the Orange Line.

Kanson-Benanav may be moving out, but he’ll keep leading A Better Cambridge — one of a growing number of so-called Yes In My Backyard groups in Greater Boston that lobby local officials to permit more housing — until they name a new chairman. And he stayed on message in his post announcing the move.


“We found ourselves unable to compete with wealthy newcomers to Cambridge for the existing stock of three-decker homes in which we had hoped to live,” he wrote. “We are a living example of what happens when desirable communities fail to build enough homes amid high demand and growing population.”


Perhaps it just wasn’t meant to be

The founder of Castle Island Brewing, Adam Romanow, named his craft beer company after a Boston landmark, and the South Boston resident always wanted to open in the city. But in the end he picked Norwood, where real estate is much less expensive, for his brewery.

Still, he had hoped to have a toehold in the city, with a beer garden next to the Ink Block in the South End. National Development and Castle Island Brewing announced in April that Castle Island would soon open a beer garden at Underground at Ink Block, a public space controlled by National Development under the Southeast Expressway.

But it wasn’t meant to be, at least not this year. Castle Island pulled the plug this month because it couldn’t get the Boston Police Department to sign off. Romanow says police officials expressed concerns about access to the site, which is bounded by busy multi-lane roads.

“To say it simply and succinctly, people were shocked and upset, which is validating,” Romanow says, “because it means people were looking forward to it. If nothing else, it showed there was demand for this kind of thing.”


He has a Plan B, a site somewhere else in the city that he’s pursuing before the warm weather ends. He won’t say where until it’s definite.


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