Bay Street Theater Unveils Plans; Targets Neighboring Property For Park Addition

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A rendering of the proposed new Bay Street Theater from John Steinbeck Waterfront Park. ROGER FERRIS + PARTNERS

A striking design for the new Bay Street Theater was presented at a short online unveiling party on Tuesday, April 6.

The building, designed by Roger Ferris + Partners, a Westport, Connecticut, architectural firm that has done a number of projects on the East End, takes on the form of two contemporary barn-like structures joined together as one, with a third gabled structure rising above a public plaza on the west side of the building. Horizontal wooden slats alternate with glass to provide a translucent, air-like quality. Renderings show entrances on both the east and west side of the new theater that provide views to the water behind the theater in keeping with design elements being proposed as part of the village’s effort to rezone a portion of its waterfront.

The building will be constructed on the site of the Water Street Shops complex, which is best known as the home of the 7-Eleven store. Renderings show the parking lot transformed into an entrance to the theater complex and a tree-lined lawn opening up to John Steinbeck Waterfront Park to the north of the theater.

Adam Potter, the chairman of Friends of Bay Street, the not-for-profit organization created to find, design, and build a permanent home for the theater, which has leased space on Long Wharf since its founding in 1991, said his group is also in talks to purchase the building at 2 Main Street on the corner of Long Island Avenue and Main Street, which is home to K Pasa restaurant, Espresso da asporto take-out, the Yummylicious ice cream parlor, and Havens, a gift shop.

The plans call for that building to be razed, with the land added to Steinbeck Park, creating a new gateway to the north side of the village.

“The theater will not use any part of this land,” said Mr. Potter during the presentation. “It is for the overall benefit of Sag Harbor and we are so excited about this opportunity.” (See separate story.)

The performing arts center will include a 299-seat mainstage theater that will preserve the intimacy of the original Bay Street venue while featuring additional fixed and flexible spaces to accommodate different configurations for various needs, Bay Street announced in a release accompanying Tuesday’s announcement. The facility will include space for the organization’s year-round educational programs for children and adults, a center for new work development, a shop and scenery storage, special events, and professional development initiatives. Bay Street said that will permit it to engage in more original works, co-productions and partnerships.

Details were scarce during the online presentation that lasted less than 6 minutes and focused largely on the overall setting for the theater.

Mr. Potter said Bay Street was not ready to announce the total square footage of the theater, saying “we are still working everything through,” but he said it would be about 10- to 15-percent larger than the building it will replace. That building is about 15,000 square feet, meaning the theater would be approximately 16,500 to 17,250 square feet.

“What people will be questioning is the height of the building,” he added. At its tallest point, the ridge line of the gabled portions, it will be 39 feet tall, he said, although it will average about 30 feet tall.

Under new zoning regulations for the waterfront currently being reviewed by the Village Board, the height of buildings along the waterfront would be limited to 25 feet, although a 10-foot bonus could be obtained if a developer provides a community benefit, which in this case would be access to the waterfront. Even so, at 39 feet, the building would require at least one variance from the village Zoning Board of Appeals. “We are a theater. We can only go so low,” said Mr. Potter, alluding to the need for space above the stage for equipment and space to lift backdrops out of view.

“I think Roger Ferris did a nice design of the theater,” said Mayor Kathleen Mulcahy. “As far as whether it is appropriate for the village, appropriate for the lot, that is what the ZBA and the ARB will decide. That’s not my bailiwick.”

Trustee Aidan Corish, likewise, came away with a generally favorable impression. “I found it very pleasing,” he said of the design, adding the architects handled the volume required for a theater well and incorporated other elements, such as the pitched gabled roofs that rise moving west from Main Street. “On first look, if all the parts are in place, what’s not to like there?” he asked.

A note of caution was sounded by Trustee James Larocca. “This is a very tentative step in what will be a comprehensive and possibly lengthy process involving all of the regulatory village boards,” he said. “It’s very important at this early stage because of the magnitude of the project and the significance of it in relation to our work in trying to open and advance our waterfront, that everyone involved work to have as full and complete a community process as possible.”

“It feels fantastic,” said Tracy Mitchell, Bay Street’s executive director, of finally being able to unveil plans for the theater’s future home, even though she acknowledged the plans shown this week mark “just the first draft of what will be many variations on the theme.”

“This has been years in the making,” she continued. “I don’t know how many places I’ve looked at over the years. I’ve gone down many roads, all of them dead ends. It feels fantastic to have something out in the world that will happen in some way, shape, or form.”

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