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Dad's Garage Theatre Eyes Old Fourth Ward Church

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Since the bulldozers came a-knockin' at their former 280 Elizabeth St. home last August, Dad's Garage Theatre has been shacking up with 7 Stages in Little Five Points. It works for now, but for 15 months, the nonprofit theater company — known for its improv comedy shows and classes, original plays and bacon-inspired events — has been searching for its forever home. The latest space to get Dad's attention is a 12,210-square-foot church at 569 Ezzard St. in the Old Fourth Ward, just south of Thumbs Up Diner and west of Ammazza. The theater company does have a contract on the space, but in an interview with Curbed Atlanta, Dad's Garage Managing Director Lara Smith stressed that the move is far from being a done deal: "While we are really excited about the space and working full-steam ahead toward it, there are a lot of things that are just out of our hands in terms of things like zoning and financial feasibility."

One of the things up in the air is the necessity to change the property's zoning from residential to commercial. The rezoning application is in and the hearing is set for June 5 or 12. Another consideration is that, as a nonprofit, Dad's Garage will need to rely, in part, on funding from the public and grants to make the purchase financially feasible (Smith did not comment on the price, but the church is listed online at $2.15 million), which means they'll need to have the support of the surrounding neighborhood and of their audience. "We weren't really looking to buy," said Smith, "but this space is so great. We have some pretty unique needs in terms of ceiling height, architecture and parking [there are 90 parking spots], and it meets all of them."

The Old Fourth Ward master plan involves creating a community where people can "live, work and play" and, as the rezoning request points out, "The location of a non-profit theater in the community will increase the access to arts and cultural activities." Not to mention the financial impact the popular theater stands to have on the burgeoning area. "What we were looking for," said Smith, "is a vibrant intown neighborhood that also feels safe to people, so this neighborhood is perfect."

If all goes according to plan, Dad's hopes to add an additional 4,770 square feet onto the existing structure. They would convert the current sanctuary into the main performance space, use the downstairs area as offices and rehearsal space and put the top-shelf theater and a new entrance/lobby in the newly built area. According to Smith, an early 2015 move-in date is "aggressive," but that all will become much clearer by June or July.

· Dad's Garage [website]
· Curbed Atlanta coverage of the Inman Park development at 280 Elizabeth Street [Curbed Atlanta]