Shakespeare Theatre Company, Lansburgh building landlords reach settlement


Photo of the Lansburgh Theatre, courtesy of the Shakespeare Theatre Company. (courtesy of the Shakespeare Theatre Company)
September 20, 2013

All’s well that ends well, and the dispute between the Shakespeare Theatre Company and its landlords of the Lansburgh building is apparently over. Pending a formal dismissal of the STC’s suit, which could come as early as next week, the theater company will play on in the 450-seat Lansburgh Theatre, where it has performed since 1992.

The parties needed only five minutes of court time Friday morning, asking for one more brief stay of last year’s order granting the Tony Award-winning classical troupe continued occupancy. All that remains, the sides said, is approval of a final architectural drawing.

Laura Steinberg, attorney for the Lansburgh building’s owner and developer, Graham Gund, stressed to D.C. Superior Court Judge Neal E. Kravitz that the message was not simply that the sides are close to settling, or that they think they have settled.

“We have settled,” Steinberg said.

Terms have not yet been disclosed, and Steinberg, Patrick Conner (an attorney for other parties in the defense), and Kate McSweeny (representing the STC) all declined to comment. Leaving court, the trio presented a unified and firmly upbeat front.

Last year the STC filed suit to retain occupancy in the Lansburgh theater, fearing eviction and facing a spike in its annual building maintenance fee from $70,000 to $480,000. (The troupe has also performed in its own nearby 774-seat Harman Hall since 2007.) As part of the original Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corp. deal that awarded Gund the rights to redevelop the former Lansburgh department store into an upscale apartment building, Gund’s company donated $1 million over 14 years ($70,000 a year) to support the new theater’s upkeep. The STC’s rent during that period was $1 a year.

The legal dispute included control of the three-person board, a nonprofit entity that is the contact point between landlord and tenant. Disagreements also arose over how much maintenance the building needs and how much that will cost.

Another status hearing is scheduled for Oct. 25. That will be canceled when the STC files papers dismissing the case as settled. McSweeny told the court she hopes to do that next week.

First Post byline, 1992; covering theater for the Post since 1999. His book "American Playwriting and the Anti-Political Prejudice" will be published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2014.
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