A Manchester homecoming is in the works for a local art studio.
Last month Studio Two Three purchased the former Dogtown Dance Theatre building at 109 W. 15th St. for $1.75 million.
The nonprofit, which offers art studio spaces and classes focused on screen-printing and printmaking, is planning to convert the 84-year-old theater into its permanent home as its lease at 3300 W. Clay St. in Scott’s Addition expires.
The deal begins a return to the neighborhood for Studio Two Three. It was in a 400-square-foot studio – studio #23 – in the Plant Zero complex where the group was founded and got its name in 2009.
Executive Director Ashley Hawkins said Studio Two Three’s existence has since been a somewhat nomadic one. After Plant Zero, it moved to the Fan for a stint on Main Street before heading to Scott’s Addition, where it’s been since 2015. It expanded its footprint in Scott’s Addition to about 13,000 square feet in 2017.
Hawkins said prior to finding the Dogtown Dance building, the group was considering signing a new seven-year lease in Scott’s Addition.
“Seven years feels like security at a certain point, but also like a real risk in this real estate market,” Hawkins said.
“We realized that 15,000-square-foot warehouse spaces were few and far between today in Richmond. In seven years we might honestly cease to exist as an organization because that type of space might either be gone or completely unattainable for a small-sized nonprofit.”
Hawkins said they were bracing for a potential years-long search for a permanent home when they came across the Dogtown Dance Theatre, which closed earlier this fall after over a decade in operation.
Studio Two Three worked out a deal with the theater’s owners and closed on the 16,500-square-foot space on Nov. 18. The property was most recently assessed by the city at $1.94 million. 7 Hills Advisors’ Landon Hinton represented Studio Two Three in the deal.
Hawkins said the nonprofit is planning around $650,000 in renovations that would include converting administrative offices into private studios and outfitting the first floor for screen-printing. LoCh Design is the project architect.
“Really what we’re doing is retrofitting it for print shop and artist studio use,” Hawkins said. “The biggies for us are that we have to replace the entire roof, then we’re adding artist studio spaces on the mezzanines in the main theater space.”
Hawkins said the move and renovations are being financed in a variety of ways. Virginia Community Capital was the nonprofit’s lender for the building acquisition, and Virginia Community Development Corp. is the lender for construction financing.
Studio Two Three’s annual operating budget of around $750,000 is made up of individual donations, grants and its monthly membership dues, which range from $115 for access to shared space to $250 for a private studio.
Hawkins said having those varied funding sources helps keep membership dues down.
“We don’t want costs to be a barrier to folks,” she said. “Our aim is not to pass on expenses to artists outside of what is reasonable in the world. Keeping it affordable, keeping the rates what they are (is important to us).”
Construction on the theater building is aimed to begin in early 2023, with eyes on a May move-in.
Major changes are also coming to Studio Two Three’s original home at Plant Zero. Fountainhead Real Estate Development and WVS Cos. are planning to raze the 102-year-old building to make way for a seven-story building with 235 apartments plus commercial space.
Demolition is expected to begin next month.