Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Jazz St. Louis reveals plans for Bistro renovation, expansion

At a news conference this morning, Jazz St. Louis announced that they'll spend a total of $10 million to purchase and remodel two buildings in the Grand Center district, bringing their administrative offices and education programs under the same roof as a renovated and expanded Jazz at the Bistro. 

JSL will buy the building at 3536 Washington Ave, which currently houses the Bistro, and, as speculated here yesterday, also will purchase the adjacent building at 3540 Washington Ave, once home to the Regional Arts Commission and the Forum for Contemporary Art (now the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis) and more recently occupied by Greenberg Van Doren Gallery.

The Bistro space will be completely renovated (pictured), with the seating capacity increased from 150 to 220. The building next door will be used for administrative offices, now housed a block away at the Centene Center for the Arts on Olive St., and education programs, as well as a "jazz lounge" seating up to 75.

With $6 million already in hand from major donors, Jazz St. Louis will launch a campaign to raise the remaining $4 million from the public. Work on the Bistro building will begin at the end of this month, following the memorial concert for MAXJAZZ founder Richard McDonnell on Sunday, May 25, and already has started on the building next door. If all goes to plan, the Bistro will re-open in October for shows featuring trumpeter Wynton Marsalis.

All in all, this is a significant step for Jazz St. Louis, as they'll not only have nearly 50% more seats to fill, but will join a select group of not-for-profit jazz presenters in the USA that also operate their own concert venues.

The two most prominent examples can be found on the coasts. In New York City, Jazz at Lincoln Center's Frederick P. Rose Hall, which opened in the fall of 2004 and cost an estimated $130 million, includes several spaces used to present music. There's the Rose Theater, a three-level concert venue seating up to 1233; the Allen Room, which can be configured for banquets, cabaret or concerts for 300 to 500; Dizzy's Club Coca Cola, a small club presenting music seven nights a week to a house of 140; plus an atrium big enough to serve as an "event space" for parties and receptions; classrooms; and a recording facility.

In San Francisco, the presenting organization SFJAZZ opened The SFJAZZ Center in January 2013. Billed as "the first concert hall of its type in the United States: a freestanding performance venue with flexible seating and staging for artists of every stature, built specifically for jazz music and audiences alike," the 35,000 square foot facility was the end result of a $64 million capital campaign. It includes an auditorium that seats from 350 to 700; an 80-seat "multi-purpose ensemble room"; rehearsal spaces; the SFJAZZ administrative offices; plus a café at sidewalk level, ground floor lobby, retail shop and box office.

While the new Jazz St. Louis HQ won't be as large as either of those spaces, it would seem to be the only facility of its kind in the Midwest. Kansas City's American Jazz Museum opened in 1997 in a building also housing the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. The AJM's main venue is the Blue Room, a club with a capacity of around 120 that presents live music, mostly local but also including some touring acts, four nights a week. The museum, a Smithsonian affiliate, also presents a concert series consisting of five or six shows each year across the street at the 500-seat Gem Theater.

Meanwhile, the Jazz Institute of Chicago, which programs the Chicago Jazz Festival, Chicago Jazz Fair, and concerts in local parks; offers educational programs similar to Jazz St. Louis; and presents local musicians in clubs and other small venues, doesn't really have a comparable home venue.

StLJN will have more details on this story as developments warrant.

Updated after the jump with additional images...
 
Artist's conception of the video wall in the new 75-seat "jazz lounge" on the first floor of 3540 Washington Ave., looking east.

The bar area in the new "jazz lounge."

A view of the south end of the renovated Bistro space at 3536 Washington Ave., where the stage presently is located, showing the new staircase to the second floor balcony.

Updated 5/15/14 to correct the history of 3540 Washington Ave.

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