The Music Center at Strathmore will undergo a $10 million renovation that will enable concertgoers to enjoy dinner at the Bethesda venue but will not change at all the concert hall.
When the Center celebrates its 15th anniversary in 2020, the Montgomery County venue that features concerts by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the National Philharmonic, the Washington Performing Arts and many popular musicians will be 5,000 square feet larger.
The current building on Rockville Pike, which includes a 1,976-seat concert hall, is 190,000,000 square feet.
“When the Music Center opened in 2005, it was the culmination of an exemplary public/private partnership that greatly benefited our community,” said Maryland Senator Richard S. Madaleno Jr. in a press release.
“Already known as the cultural heart of Montgomery County, the renovations proposed by
Strathmore will enhance the Music Center’s value to the community, with flexible space and improved amenities,” he said.
The concert hall and mansion were “underbuilt,” said Strathmore Founder and CEO Eliot Pfanstiehl. “We need more space for our patrons.”
Currently, anyone purchasing food often ends up wandering with tray in hand, seeking a place to sit down.
The renovations call for an additional 200 seats. When the addition is complete, Bou Terrace will be enclosed by floor to ceiling glass that can be recessed so that diners also can eat outside in good weather.
The expanded area is expected to be used for meetings and smaller performances.
An escalator to make it easier for attendees to move from the lobby to the lower orchestra-level entrance is also planned. This will help reduce congestion at the start and end of concerts, Pfanstiehl said.
The escalator will be programmed to only go in one direction before the concert begins, and reversed in the other direction at the end of the show, Pfanstiehl said.
In order to include the escalator, Pfanstiehl said that entrances to the men’s bathroom and Comcast Lounge on the orchestra level will be relocated.
When the work is completed in 2020, Pfanstiehl does not believe more patrons will necessarily attend concerts at Strathmore. Rather, he said, they will experience “greater patron services” and can go out to dinner at the same place they listen to music, thereby only driving to and parking at one place.
Grimm and Parker Architects of Bethesda will be leading the renovations, which are not expected to affect Strathmore’s ability to hold concerts, Pfanstiehl said.
“For the most part, it’s all technically on the outside of the building,” he said, referring to the construction.
Concerts will continue throughout the work, he said, adding, “I can’t afford to shut this place down.”
More than 125,000 people annually attend programs on its campus; about half that number enjoys Strathmore’s free summer outdoor concert series and Discover Strathmore, a family-oriented festival.
The State of Maryland is expected to allocate $3 million, both in Fiscal Years 2018 and 2019. That money, while not definite, is included in the legislature’s wish list, Pfanstiehl said.
“We are hopeful,” he said.
The state already gave Strathmore $1 million for the planning and design phases.
The rest of the $10 million costs will come from private donors.