University of Mary Washington announces new theater complex
The University of Mary Washington on Wednesday unveiled design plans for a new theater complex that will house students in theater and dance programs and connect the campus and community in meaningful ways.
The new building, which will be located on the corner of William Street and Sunken Road, is “an opportunity to transform the campus in a really positive and exciting way,” UMW President Troy Paino said during a virtual unveiling of the plans via Zoom last week. .
“This project brings this side of campus to life and extends to the city of Fredericksburg in a significant way,” he said.
The new building will include a 300-seat theatre, a 150-seat studio theater and two large dance studios, as well as storage and administration and learning space.
The university contracted with Commonwealth Architects and HGA Architects & Engineers to develop the plans for the new building, starting with the interior.
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The buildings that currently house UMW’s fine and performing arts programs, Pollard, Melchers, and duPont Halls, were built 70 years ago when UMW was an all-female school with an enrollment of about 1,000 people. They no longer meet the needs of a mixed campus of nearly 4,000 people, Paino said.
They are also not accessible to people with disabilities.
“As they are currently seated, there is no accessibility,” Paino said. “Students, staff and guests with disabilities must enter from the back and there is no dignity in that, especially with public buildings.”
Therefore, the $117 million project – which was funded by the General Assembly in the state budget for 2022-2023 – includes the renovation of Pollard, Melchers and duPont, which will continue to house the programs of art, art history and music in a safer and more adequate space.
Paino said fine and performing arts at UMW have been important to students over the years, even those who did not major in those disciplines.
“We know that smart, well-rounded students are interested in fine and performing arts, even if it’s not their main field of study,” he said. “Students love to play their instruments or sing in a choir or perform in theater or work on a theater production. And we know we can recruit students who are interested in participating in these activities.”
The new Theater Arts Building at William and Sunken will replace two aging dormitories, the Marshall and Russell Rooms, which are located there.
Paino said climbing the hill from these residence halls to the rest of campus is like climbing a five-story building and poses challenges for people with physical disabilities.
The new theater will be rebuilt on this hill with a large open green space in front, leading to the main entrance from the corner of William and Sunken.
The community will be able to see from the location to campus in a way that is not currently possible, Paino said.
Campus Walk will also be extended from the bell tower, through the new theater and out into the community as part of the project, he said.
Paino said the university understands that many former students who lived in Russell and Marshall Halls, which will be demolished as part of the project, have fond memories of those residence halls.
“We know this was an important part of your experience and we are planning several ways to commemorate these buildings,” he said.
The new theater and renovation by duPont, Melchers and Pollard is expected to be completed in 2024.
Paino pointed out that while the “meat” plans for the new theater building are fixed – since it was designed from the inside – the exterior plans are still conceptual.
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