The Huntington Theatre Company announced Thursday that it is relocating a sizable chunk of its operations to Everett, although the company’s shows will continue to be presented in its Boston venues.
What’s moving to a site in Everett are the scenic, prop, and paint shops, a core part of the identity of the Huntington, which is known for the generally high quality of its stage design.
In a telephone interview Thursday, Huntington managing director Michael Maso said the company has signed a 15-year lease with the owner of the Everett site and is spending around $5 million to transform a warehouse into a production facility where sets and props will be built and painted. Costumes will also be stored there. Roughly 20 full-time theater employees will be relocated to the new production facility.
“It’s part of the growing footprint of the Huntington, in the same way the Calderwood was,’’ said Maso. “It’s an exciting time for us. It’s the beginning of the next generation.’’ He said that he expects the Huntington’s scene shop to take on jobs for other theater troupes and opera companies, then added pointedly “or a casino.’’ Wynn Resorts is building a $2.4 billion casino in Everett.
The Huntington’s confident, expansionist mood is in striking contrast with the period of turmoil and uncertainty the company experienced after Boston University announced in the fall of 2015 that it planned to sell the building housing the BU Theatre — the Huntington’s longtime mainstage — along with two adjoining properties that housed the scenery and paint shops.
Then, last June, the Huntington reached a deal with QMG Huntington, a development group, which bought all three buildings for $25 million. Under that deal, the Huntington Theatre Company will stay in the BU Theatre and will have the responsibility to renovate it. Maso has estimated that up to $60 million may be invested in those improvements. (The Huntington also presents shows in the Calderwood Pavilion, in the South End.)
He said Thursday that $60 million “is still a very realistic number,’’ though he added that the Huntington is a year or more away from going public with a planned five-year capital campaign, at which time a firm fund-raising goal will be established.
In a separate interview, Huntington production manager Todd Williams said Thursday that he and the heads of the shops evaluated more than 50 sites in Boston, but the Everett site proved more affordable and more in line with the company’s space needs. The new production facility in Everett will boast 25,000 square feet of production space and 18,000 square feet of storage space along with 4,000 square feet of office space.
“We couldn’t get as close to the city as we wanted,’’ acknowledged Williams. “But this was one of the closer spaces we could find in our budget range.’’
The shift of some operations from Boston to Everett won’t be the only Huntington-related change: Starting July 1, in a reflection of the end of the decades-long partnership with Boston University, the BU Theatre will be known as the Huntington Avenue Theatre.Don Aucoin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.