The theatrical company Red Herring Productions says its Franklinton Playhouse would be anchored by an intimate black-box-style theater, with a small stage encircled by seating and dressing rooms, bathrooms and concessions off to a side.
A smaller portion of the 8,000-square-foot warehouse at 566 W. Rich St. is planned for a yoga, pilates and dance studio.
Executive Producer Michael Herring hopes to draw 10,000 show-goers the first year, many of whom likely wouldn’t otherwise visit the area long referred to as the Bottoms and among the poorest sectors in the city.
“I’m pretty stoked about this whole project,” said Herring, who moved back to Columbus from Chicago in 2014. “First, (it’s) to create an incubator space for theater and movement artists. The other key component is to make Franklinton Playhouse a destination point. … I want to help change the brand image of Franklinton.”
On a block north of Dodge Park, the 87-year-old building most recently was home to the Ethical Arts Collective studios. It will be renovated to include entrances on Rich and Gift streets, with a large Franklinton Playhouse sign along the more-trafficked Rich Street.
The entire redevelopment project is expected to cost $500,000, although a first raising of $125,000 will cover build-out expenses and the first year of operating costs.
The nonprofit Red Herring received a $22,000 grant from the Greater Columbus Arts Council and wants to raise the remainder from real estate developers, local corporations and others with stakes in the neighborhood.
“We’re looking to approach various developers who are planning significant projects in the neighborhood. We want to leverage the audiences we’re going to be drawing to Franklinton,” Herring said. “We’ve still got a lot of money to raise but we’re confident that we’re on the right track.”
Among recent notable projects for Franklinton are a massive, 241-apartment complex planned by Kaufman Development along West Broad Street and a $40 million redevelopment of the former Riverside-Bradley public housing site off Lucas Street into 230 apartments by a developer group.
In what he called a “very aggressive time line,” Herring wants to have the first phase of work – to include HVAC, restrooms and lobby additions – completed in October, with shows beginning the same month.
Red Herring signed a lease beginning Aug. 1 that can be extended in chunks to as long as eight years.
The company held shows mostly at the Riffe Center, which is decidedly too large for Red Herring audiences, before the company tested its production of Endgame in May at 566 W. Rich St.
The theater, though it will be small and one of just four similar venues in the city with seating capacity below 100, should have an outsized effect in the neighborhood, said Trent Smith, executive director of the Franklinton Board of Trade and a member of the board of Red Herring.
Franklinton Playhouse will be available for comedy and improvisation troupes, corporate and group presentations and for Franklinton Preparatory Academy acting classes.
“Michael’s doing a good job of forming relationships with the surrounding businesses and restaurants,” Smith said. “There is, from what I understand, not enough small theater venues in Columbus. He’s going to provide one in a happening area that has a lot of interest already. It will be one more reason for people to come down and take a look.”
Evan Weese covers real estate, money and the business of sports for Columbus Business First.