Jazz St. Louis
has scheduled a press conference for 10:00 a.m. tomorrow (Tuesday, May 13) at Jazz at the Bistro to announce what's being called a multi-million dollar project for Grand Center," a major initiative to change the face of St. Louis arts," and a major project which reaffirms St. Louis as one of the most important arts and creative cities in the country and around the world."
The announced participants in the press conference include St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, Jazz St. Louis executive director Gene Dobbs Bradford, JSL board president Marian Nunn, and two of Jazz St. Louis' major donors: David Steward, chairman of World Wide Technologies, and Ken Kranzberg, chairman of TricorBraun and of Grand Center's board of directors.
Reached by phone on Monday afternoon, Jazz St. Louis director of operations and artistic administration Bob Bennett understandably was reluctant to disclose details, but when cajoled, did offer up a couple of bits of info.
First, the press conference will be concerned in part with a real estate transaction, but not one involving the Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square. It's about buying something, but not the Grandel," said Bennett.
The theater has been the subject of speculation since last summer, when The Black Rep, primary tenants for 20 years, were asked by Grand Center to relocate to clear the way for sale to an as-yet-unnamed buyer.
So what sort of real estate transaction might we be talking about here? One obvious answer would involve Jazz St. Louis buying from Grand Center the building at 3536 Washington Ave that houses Jazz at the Bistro - officially known as the Bistro at Grand Center - then refitting or updating it.
Should they be looking to add square footage, the three-story building just to the west at 3540 Washington Ave formerly was home to the Regional Arts Commission and what's now the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, but seems to have been mostly unused since both those organizations moved to their own facilities a few years ago. (An online search on the address turns up no indications of a current tenant, mostly just references to the Greeenberg Van Doren Gallery, which occupied the building before RAC and CAM.)
Second, Bennett also said that Jazz St. Louis will not present a summer series this year at the Bistro, because it will be closed for renovations." Asked whether said renovations involved major structural changes or just a redecorating, he declined to comment further.
Since Jazz St. Louis also currently maintains office space a block away from the Bistro at the Centene Center for the Arts, 3547 Olive, presumably one goal of any expansion or renovation would be to consolidate operations in one place.
While it's hard to imagine how the Bistro could be reconfigured to provide additional space for offices while still being used as a performance venue, adding the building next door would provide adjacent space not only for offices, but for continued expansion of Jazz St. Louis' burgeoning education programs and perhaps other uses as well.