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Editorial: Everyman Theatre a boost for the West Side

The Everyman Theatre’s recent groundbreaking for its new home is welcome news for Baltimore’s West Side, where development continues to come in fits and starts.

The $17.5 million conversion of a vaudeville house that opened in 1910 is expected to be finished in September 2012. The new venue, which will expand the theater’s seating capacity from 175 to 250, is expected to bring more than 30,000 patrons to the area each year to attend more than 200 shows.

The undertaking is an excellent example of the public and private sectors working together, a Baltimore tradition. The building at 315 W. Fayette St., formerly home to the Town Theatre and vacant since 1990, was donated by Bank of America and the Harold A. Dawson Trust. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake did her part by securing $1.4 million in city bond funds to back the project.

Now the stage is set for a healthy dose of revitalization on the West Side. A 2008 study by the Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies projected that the theater, with its more than 4,000 season ticket holders, will generate $26 million in economic impact over eight years.

Ground Zero for that impact will be the burgeoning arts district just one block from the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center and two blocks from the Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower.

Unfortunately, the West Side’s gain is Station North’s loss as Everyman moves from its Charles Street location. Everyman tried to stay in its current neighborhood, but its efforts were unsuccessful so it looked elsewhere.

Frustrating as that may be in the short term for Station North, development is not a zero-sum game. There is much to commend Station North, and we urge the same kind of public-private collaboration to keep things humming there.