Orlando’s city council approved an agreement Monday afternoon that will help make it possible for Mad Cow Theatre to establish a new home on the second floor of 54 W. Church St., the downtown retail space that was once home to Hooters.
The council voted 6-1 to okay the agreement between city and the landlord, the Dutch lender FFWO, LLC, to allocate about 9,000 square feet for the arts. Plans are for Mad Cow to sublet that space from the city for $1 a year for 75 years.
FFWO controls the 32-story residential/commercial complex at 55 W. Church St., as well as 54 W. Church, the two-story retail complex across the street.
Assuming the sublease between the city and Mad Cow is approved, that agreement would allow the theater company to move from its current home on South Magnolia Avenue to the West Church Street building, where there would be room for two slightly larger theaters, along with a lobby and considerable more space backstage.
The move would allow Mad Cow to build two new, slightly larger theaters, one to seat around 160 people and one to seat around 60. (The Magnolia Street building houses about 150 seats in two theaters.)
The new theater lobby would face Church Street, and there would be higher ceilings in the theaters and considerably more space backstage. Mad Cow’s current theaters have low ceilings and almost no backstage.
The agreement signed today requires the city and the developer together to contribute about $800,000 toward the theater’s build-out – around $100,000 from the city and the remainder from the developer. Mitzi Maxwell, the theater’s general manager, says that total build-out costs may be as much as $1.2 million. Henry Maldonado, former general manager of WKMG-TV and now president of Enzian Theater, is heading Mad Cow’s capital campaign.
Tim Lemons, managing principal of L2 Studios and the architect who designed Mad Cow’s current home, also would design the new space. Maxwell hopes to have moved into the new theater by the beginning of the 2011-2012 season.
Founded in 1997, Mad Cow has been on Magnolia Avenue since 2003. That space has proved challenging, partly for the split design of its larger theater but more often for the sizable rent – about $100,000 a year – and for poor maintenance, which has resulted in a flooded basement, lack of air conditioning in the theater, poorly kept restrooms and other problems.
Today’s agreement is expected to cost the city about $27,500 a year in operating costs. Phil Diamond was the only council member to vote against the plan.
Plans for the 55 W. Church Street development – encompassing the building at 54 W. Church St. that was once part of Church Street Market – began in 2000 as a condominium and commercial site. When the bottom fell out of the condo market in the late 2000s, the 55 W. Church building eventually was turned into rental apartments.
According to today’s agreement, the city is interested in helping Mad Cow to build a home on West Church Street to encourage “diverse cultural activities” downtown.
“Live theater is a high-priority activity generator that is considered a destination activity,” the agreement states.
In other words, theater will bring people downtown.
Maxwell said that she expects the sublease between the theater and the city to be signed relatively soon, perhaps in the next few weeks.
(Photos: Top right, 54 W. Church St., where Mad Cow hopes to occupy the second story. Lower right, Mad Cow’s current home at 105 S. Magnolia Ave.)