Industry Noize: Merriweather Gets Upgrades

Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Md., will be getting at least a $19 million facelift over the coming years, the city, the property’s owner and Howard County are expected to officially announce June 4 at the venue.

Howard County Executive Ken Ulman apparently couldn’t wait that long and has spilled a lot of the beans about the project already.

Negotiations over the future of MPP as well as the surrounding Symphony Woods have been at times contentious, and a deal that satisfies all parties has been long in coming.

The renovations, planned to take place over five years during the concert off-seasons, are to begin in fall. They include new seating, a raised roof around the main stage, new restrooms and concessions, artist dressing rooms and stage.

It also includes a 10-year agreement with I.M.P. to manage the concert venue, according to promoter Seth Hurwitz.

“The smoke has cleared and it’s finally happening,” Hurwitz told Pollstar. “I got a 10-year deal out of it, so I’m happy.” He’s also happy about some of the eco-friendly design changes in store for the property, which will create a second stage area in the woods adjacent to the Frank Gehry-designed pavilion rather than separated by a long path downhill and behind the venue. “I hope it will go from being one of the greatest venues in the world to going on people’s lists as their favorite venue in the world,” he said.

Merriweather Post Pavilion is currently owned by Howard Hughes Corp., which will finance the first half of the renovations. The second half would be financed through a loan made to the company by the Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission, which will take control of the property.

Funding will also come from typical sources, including rent and other fees.

“Money has to come from somewhere to fund all this,” Hurwitz explained. “We have to pay more, the county has to pay some, the landlord has to throw in their lot. It’s not going to come from one place. “Everyone got their piece in and the result will be a spectacular venue. The challenge, as I always say, is to maintain the integrity and the charm of the place as you update it.”

With the transfer to the Arts and Culture Commission, Merriweather Post is expected to host more community-based cultural programming and non-concert events.

“This news means Merriweather Post Pavilion will get the upgrades it needs now, and will be part of the lifeblood of our community for decades to come,” Ulman said, according to The Baltimore Sun. “A vibrant Merriweather with expanded programming will become the cultural core of Howard County, and is just what our community expects and deserves.”

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