Station North film center receives $5 million gift

Film center conception

Image caption: Artist’s conception of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Film Center

Credit: Courtesy of Ziger/Snead Architects

The Stavros Niarchos Foundation has committed $5 million to Johns Hopkins, enabling the university, the Maryland Institute College of Art, and the Maryland Film Festival to transform Baltimore's historic Parkway Theatre into a center for the study, production, and exhibition of film.

The new Stavros Niarchos Foundation Film Center will be a cinema showplace with three screens, 600 seats, and live performance space. Scheduled to open in late 2016, it will help anchor the Station North neighborhood's developing role as a Baltimore arts destination, supporting cultural and economic growth in the area.

"This is a once-in-a-generation moment for Johns Hopkins and our partners at MICA and the Maryland Film Festival to reclaim a part of Baltimore's storied cultural history and transform it into the heart of our community's vibrant, dynamic future," Johns Hopkins President Ronald J. Daniels says. "With the visionary support of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, we are seeding artistic and economic opportunities for our students, our neighbors, and our city."

The 420-seat Parkway Theatre, built in 1915 near the corner of Charles Street and North Avenue, was a classic American movie palace patterned after the West End Theater in London and the Strand in New York. It closed in the urban decline of the 1970s, but in recent years the corner of Charles and North has become a key component in planning for the Station North Arts and Entertainment District.

Maryland was one of the first states to create arts and entertainment districts as an economic model, and Station North was Baltimore's first, generating significant economic development, tax revenue, and employment since its creation in 2002.

"The Stavros Niarchos Foundation is firmly committed to supporting community development such as that at the Station North Arts and Entertainment District and excited to partner with this unique alliance of academic and cultural institutions in Baltimore," says Andreas Dracopoulos, co-president of the foundation. "We believe the combination of universities and arts organizations is a great untapped resource for improving our cities, and seek to provide support for the best initiatives such coalitions develop."

Johns Hopkins' interest in the Parkway and adjacent buildings grew, in part, out of its $10 million Homewood Community Partners Initiative, launched by the university and nearby communities in 2012 to revitalize 10 neighborhoods, including Station North, near its Homewood campus. In December 2012, Baltimore Development Corp. awarded development rights to the property to the Maryland Film Festival, with Johns Hopkins and MICA as partners.

The surrounding area's redevelopment will include other facilities for use by the faculty and students of the Johns Hopkins and MICA film and media studies programs, which are expanding. The programs, which offer joint classes, will reside across the street from the Stavros Niarchos Film Center in the former Centre Theatre building at 10 E. North Ave. That renovation is to be completed by fall 2015.

Both programs have established partnerships with the Maryland Film Festival, which since 1999 has presented annual festivals and year-round programming at a number of Station North venues and has become a major stop on the national film festival circuit.

Johns Hopkins recognizes the gift creating the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Film Center as a contribution to Rising to the Challenge: The Campaign for Johns Hopkins, an effort to raise $4.5 billion to support students, faculty, advances in research and clinical care, and interdisciplinary solutions to some of humanity's most important problems. The campaign, supporting both Johns Hopkins University and Johns Hopkins Medicine, was publicly launched in May 2013 and is targeted for completion in 2017. More than $2.7 billion has been committed so far.