The Warehouse Theatre stands boarded up this morning, any hope of its re-opening even more remote after the owners of the Ruskin Square (non-)development site, Stanhope and Schroders, in midweek exercised a break clause in the lease to take back possession of the building.
It seems very likely that the theatre building – a Victorian era cement warehouse – could even face demolition, as the owners survey its structure and, in a statement issued this week, said that it could require considerable work to be made safe to re-open.
The theatre has been closed for productions since the spring, after Croydon Council pulled its modest grant, prompting the theatre company to enter administration.
It then emerged that the duplicitous council had put in an offer to the administrator, for a bargain basement £10,000, to “buy” the name and worldwide reputation of the Warehouse Theatre, with a view to transfer it and a £3 million seed grant from Stanhope to a rival studio theatre planned for the heavily subsidised Favoured Halls.
With the immense help of a secret donor, Warehouse Theatre supporters have been running a fighting fund – now up to more than £13,000 – and keeping the bar open in the building, but even that was forced to close this week.
The Warehouse is on the site adjoining East Croydon Station, most of which has stood vacant for years, blighted by lengthy legal disputes and then the property market crash. Developers Stanhope have sought firm commitments from commercial tenants for their Fosters & Partners’ designed 1 million sq ft of office space, plus 550 homes, on the nine-acre plot. Part of the redevelopment scheme included building a new 200-seat studio theatre home for the Warehouse, with the developers footing the £3 million-plus cost.
Last month, Stanhope said that they planned to start building work in 2013.
When the Warehouse went into administration, Stanhope-Schroders notified the theatre of its intention to take back the building within six months unless a viable alternative business plan came forward. That date came on Monday.
“We regret that the Warehouse Theatre has been forced into administration as we have supported it financially for about 10 years,” a statement from the developers read.
”As a result of it going into administration we decided to exercise our right to take control of the building six months ago. We have now exercised the break clause in the lease and took possession of the building on 26 November.
“We have been open to any organisations to present to us a viable long term for taking the Warehouse Theatre Company business forward. We have only recently received proposals and met with various groups within the last two weeks.
“However, no entity has yet come forward with a long term viable business plan for the existing business, and all groups are suggesting new entities are established to promote a short term occupation of the building. None of these “newCo’s” has a long term sustainable business plan.
“However, taking back the building does not preclude progressing proposals and we are currently considering or awaiting a total of three proposals. We are only one part of the process beyond the date of the lease expiry which will involve us, the Council and the Administrator.
“Having secured possession, we will now undertake a thorough survey of the premises to establish the structural integrity and safety of the building, before contemplating whether we should allow the building to be re occupied. However, the building has fallen into disrepair and we understand that considerable expenditure will be required to get it into a condition that is fit for purpose,” the statement continued.
“In the interim, we will use the site to allow improved access to the cricket nets and wild garden that have been created as part of our meanwhile uses for Ruskin Square, prior to development commencing.
“Once the premises are under our control we will be working with the council to reach a decision on the future use of the site.”
The theatre operators are still clinging to a hope that they will be able to put together a workable scheme which, they say, will allow them to “emerge phoenix-like” soon.
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