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Taproot Theatre presents expansion plans to Design Review Board

The city’s NW Design Review Board met Monday night for its first look at Taproot Theatre’s proposed expansion into the lot once occupied by the Eleanor Roosevelt Building, which was destroyed last year by an arsonist.
The theater’s 12,000-square-foot proposal includes a second performance space, offices, scene shop, and large lobby with a café. The entire length of the building on both floors would be windows, to allow in natural light. Large performance posters and movie props would be along the back wall of the lobby, and visible to passersby outside.

It also provides a corridor around the performance space to allow actors to enter at different places. There would be separate bathrooms for the public and the actors. A staircase in the southeast corner would be visible through the windows. Double walls would insulate the performance space from the street and scene shop noise.
In the proposal, both the lobby and performance space are two stories high. The second floor would include offices (staff currently rents office space a block away), the theater control room, and a rooftop deck.

The deck would be open to the sky, and the windows would not have glass. The deck would be available for staff to eat lunch or have meetings, and could also be rented out.

The canopy above the lobby entrance would be directly underneath the rooftop deck windows, and the canopy would be planted with greenery.
Taproot is asking for a variance to setback rules to build some kind of railing along 85th Street to keep patrons from accidentally getting too close to traffic. Producing Artistic Director Scott Nolte said patrons gather along the narrow sidewalk and don’t always realize how close they are to stepping off the curb.
The modular building would be built by Pacific Mobile Structures Inc. at their Marysville plant. It would arrive at the site about 98 percent complete, including pre-painted, and take only four to six weeks to assemble onsite. That means there would not be daily truck traffic like at a normal construction site.
The timeline calls for design to be complete by May 2011, site work to be completed in July, and the building to be installed in August, with a final move-in during September 2011.
Nolte said having a modular building allows them to reduce the amount of disruption to the neighborhood, as well as getting the building installed in between the theater’s performances. Cost was also a factor.
“We wanted to light up the sidewalk sooner rather than later, instead of waiting to raise $20 million to do our dream building,” Nolte said. He added that about half of the expected $3.2 million cost is in the bank.
He said other arts organizations and funders he’s talked to are excited about the modular concept, because of its cost and accelerated building schedule.
“This could be a game changer and a model for arts organizations around the country,” Nolte said.