Fillmore Silver Spring’s rental fees unaffordable, some nonprofit groups say

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly said that Live Nation pays $3.2 million a year to rent the building from Montgomery County. Live Nation’s annual rent is $100,641. This version has been corrected.

October 10, 2012

Open for more than a year, the Fillmore Silver Spring has hosted only one of 36 community events required in its lease with Montgomery County, and local nonprofit groups are blaming the fees negotiated with county officials, calling them unaffordable.

The state and county poured about $11.2 million into a vacant J.C. Penney store to transform it into the Fillmore, which holds 2,000 people standing and 500 seated. County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) dropped a plan to move the Birchmere into the site and then struck a lease deal with Live Nation that requires the facility to host 36 community events a year, beginning in September 2011. Live Nation is paying $100,641 a year to rent the building from the county.

Under the lease, the Fillmore charges a base cost of $1,900 for the first 20 community uses and $3,000 for the next 10. For all events, there is also a $750-per-day cleanup fee, a $200-per-hour ambulance fee, a $100-per-hour paramedic fee, a $25-per-hour fee for ticket takers and ushers, a $35-per-hour security fee (with a four-hour minimum) and a $40-per-hour fee for police, per officer (with a three-hour minimum), according to the rate card.

The remaining six events for each year — three county events and three charitable events — are rent-free, the lease states.

Council member Marc Elrich (D-At Large) said recently that he found the rates to be “obscenely high.”

“What kind of community groups have that kind of money to spend on a space which the county built and paid for with its own money?” Elrich said. “I’m at a loss to get where these rates come from and why the rates aren’t substantially lower given the income that we know is generated for the Fillmore.”

Elrich said that the Fillmore is abiding by the terms of the contract but that the “community deserves better than what they’ve gotten so far.”

Arich Berghammer, executive vice president of clubs and theaters for North America at Live Nation, said that the Fillmore expects to have all 36 events every year. “The Fillmore is a brand that is incredibly based in the community,” Berghammer said, noting that the Fillmore was picked specifically based on its community-oriented culture. “Silver Spring is a great example of the tradition of what the Fillmore believes and loves.”

The Gandhi Brigade, a Silver Spring nonprofit group that works with youths, considered renting the Fillmore for a fundraiser but dropped the idea after seeing the pricing and worrying that the group might not “break even,” said Richard Jaeggi, the group’s executive director. “For us, it’s just not in the realm of possibility,” he said.

Leggett said there are some “challenges” related to community organizations renting the Fillmore that officials are still trying to work out.

“What we talked about was not necessarily a certain number a week or a certain number a month,” said Patrick Lacefield, Leggett’s spokesman. “We talked about how we wanted to have some sort of county uses and tiers of uses to advance our notion of having it more available to the community than the Birchmere would’ve been.”

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