The University of Mary Washington unveiled plans for a new theater arts building

Image courtesy of HGA Architects and Engineers

University of Mary Washington President Troy Paino unveiled concept drawings for a new building for the school’s theater arts program.

The presentation plans to construct a two-story, 63,000 square foot building on the school’s campus at the corner of Sunken Road and William Street. The new theater building will replace two current dormitories, William and Russell halls, and will have a path leading from the University steeple onto campus and another from the Sunken and William crossroads in front of campus leading to the second level of the building.

Plans for the new building were drawn up by Virginia-based Commonwealth Architects and Minnesota-based HGA Architects and Engineers.

The new building is designed to have two small theaters on each level, one with 300 seats and the other with 150 seats. Theaters are intended to hold classes but can also be used for performances. The building will also include two studios for the school’s dance program, teachers’ offices and storage space.

The University of Mary Washington will receive $117 million in funding from the Virginia state budget for the project’s 2022-2023 fiscal year.

In addition to the new Theater Arts building, part of the funding will also be used to renovate three other dormitories, namely Melchers, DuPont and Pollard. All three halls have operated on campus since their construction in the 1950s and are in need of renovations.

“The halls are incompatible with 21st century needs,” Paino said. “These halls offer programs that are important in attracting the next generation of students, programs that have been successful in career development and community outreach.”

Paino explained some of the reasons for the hall’s renovations, including improving accessibility for students with physical disabilities. The two theaters that will be demolished to make way for the new Theater Arts Building, William and Russell, were also in line for renovations but would have to wait 20 years before funding became available.

The president of the university also explained that the University was unable to assume the debt capacity necessary to renovate the two buildings, which made the decision to replace them with the new building of the theater.

An event to celebrate the closure of the William and Russell Rooms is already being planned in 2023. Mary Washington is currently exploring ways to honor the building and its namesakes, such as a cooking event and physical and virtual tours of the rooms ahead of their demolition was also mentioned as a possibility.

The next step in the process for the building will be a presentation made to the executive committee of the school’s visitors council, then another with the town and dress committee later in the month. Committee members will include university administration, students, neighborhood association representatives, and city government officials.

The University is also planning a presentation for the Fredericksburg Art and Architecture Review Board and is currently preparing an environmental impact report to share with city officials.


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