Spurred by our photo essay last week that chronicled some of Atlanta's most woefully vacant places, the Atlanta Shakespeare Company shared their ambitious vision for expanding the Peachtree Street theater. "Here on the 400 block of Peachtree, the Shakespeare Tavern is virtually surrounded by such (vacant) spaces," Jeff Watkins, the company's artistic director, wrote in an email. "We've been here for 22 years and I continue to believe that this neighborhood is of enormous strategic value to Atlanta with great potential to unite Midtown and downtown." For the last eight years, Watkins has been pushing a development strategy he believes could foster a groundswell of interest in the arts, while transforming a key block that — let's face it — has seen better days.
The vintage-looking New American Shakespeare Tavern houses a theater company that's considered one of the most prolific in America. More trivia: The company started back in 1984, with a one-week run at Manuel's Tavern, of all places. In 2006, following a $500,000 renovation, the company revealed a Globe-inspired façade on its Midtown location. Currently, it's the only full-time, permanent acting ensemble in Georgia.
Leaders hope the next expansion, which would carry the theater to the corner and physically raise its profile, would become a destination, "attracting visitors from across the country by offering multiple productions in multiple spaces while providing a broad array of educational programs impacting tens of thousands of young people." They foresee this being a key step in creating a true arts district for Atlanta.
They point to several key elements already in place: The theater is walking distance from six major downtown hotels; it has MARTA access; it sits ¾ mile from Centennial Olympic Park attractions. And, perhaps most importantly, it has "ample surface parking and easy access to Emory Hospital's highly underutilized 1,300 car garage."
[Renderings and images courtesy of Atlanta Shakespeare Company]