Roadside Development and Sorg Architects have been selected to redevelop the former Grimke School at 1923 Vermont Ave. NW, as well as an adjacent lot at 912 U St. NW, into a new cultural hub on the U Street corridor.
The site will become the home to a number of performance groups, including Imagination Stage, CityDance, Dance USA and Step Afrika! It will also serve as the permanent space for the African-American Civil War museum.
“We are one of the partners working with Roadside Development in the re-transformation of the Grimke School space, smack in the middle of U Street. It’s a great chance to offer different community arts programing,” Joanne Seelig, Imagination Stage’s director of education, says. “We’ve gotten the green light from the city, the application was approved and over the next two years, the space will be renovated.”
Imagination Stage was brought into the project by its neighboring arts group, CityDance, and they submitted a proposal as a collaborative. District Mayor Muriel E. Bowser made the decision to have Roadside Development follow through with the plan last week.
“There will be a black box theater for theater programming, and because there are two dance groups, there will be dance space as well,” Seelig says. “Right now, we are in the planning stage and it will be renovated to meet the needs of all the various arts groups who are involved.”
Additionally, classrooms and other infrastructure that would allow for summer camps, children’s programming and evening events will be available.
If all goes according to plan, the U Street arts hub will open in 2017 to active programming, with the costs shared by the non-profit groups.
“We’re really excited to form a relationship with the neighborhood and partner with education in the neighborhood and get to know this community better,” Seelig says. “It’s not just about the space, but it’s about bringing our programming into the community we are always working with.”
Imagination Stage already has some school partnerships in the DC area, including some charter schools, and the theater looks forward to doing more outside of its Montgomery County home.
“There has been a little bit of a barrier exposing audiences to the bulk of our work because of where we are located, so having this opportunity to have a physical space in such a rich community really opens a lot of doors in terms of establishing great partnerships with schools.”
Ideas already floating around for the space include expanding its child development center, after school programing and Saturday song family time.
“We just did a theater arts development program for teachers grades K-3 here at Imagination Stage for DC teachers and so many people took part, driving out here after work at their schools,” Seelig says. “We know being closer will open up even more opportunities.”