Merriweather Upgrades To Begin

 is about to begin a $8.4 million renovation, setting the stage for a new and improved experience for the 2015 concert season.

It’s all part of changes approved last year by the Howard County Planning Board for the historic Columbia, Md., venue and its surroundings. With the final site development plans approved Jan. 22, Merriweather Post awaits only the final building permit before the first shovel hits dirt.

Plans call for the first of three phases to include construction of five buildings, which will house two concession stands, restrooms, a box office, storage and a retail/merch store, according to the Columbia Flier.

With work occurring during the offseason, the renovation is not expected to disrupt concert schedules and are part of a larger five-year, $19 million project that includes the surrounding grounds and Symphony Woods park.

Project Manager Brian Spencer told the paper the new concession stands will replace existing ones, and will include a full commercial kitchen.

Jamie Pett, a principal with JP2 Architects, added that a key component of the project is preserving the “extraordinary park-like” setting, and his firm conducted a “tree survey” to enable work around existing trees.

“We are going to try and save the most majestic trees there and really create this new court to the existing seating bowl in a way that has you walking in under the canopy of these terrific trees,” he told the paper.

The first phase will create U-shaped common area including a courtyard west of the pavilion stage area. The stage house, back offices and pavilion roof work will be included in the second phase, and the third will focus on the restrooms and box office located east of the bowl.

The Inner Arbor Trust, which develops Symphony Woods Park adjacent to Merriweather Post Pavilion,  has plans for a curated art park including a playground, sculptures, an outdoor venue and guest services building, according to the paper.

Inner Arbor Trust President Michael McCall told the Flier construction in Symphony Woods could also begin this year.

“The park and the amphitheatre will knit together well,” McCall said. “We look forward to starting this construction.”

Merriweather Post Pavilion is currently owned by the Howard Hughes Corp., which has deal to eventually turn it over to the Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission, a nonprofit that has been involved in the renovation plans.

The 19,300-capacity, Frank Gehry-designed pavilion is operated by I.M.P. and recognized as one of the top venues of its kind in the country. While I.M.P. is not directly involved in the renovation, promoter Seth Hurwitz took note of the project when it was announced in May.

“It will be a challenge to make [Merriweather] even better, but it’s going to be a lot of fun working on it,” Hurwitz told Pollstar at the time. “Fortunately, everyone involve is now on the same page towards that goal.”