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Fans and Friends Offer A Host Of Creative Ideas For The Future Of The Merriam Theater

Posted on December 07, 2017

For a PDF version of this press release, click here.

For a link to the Executive Summary, click here.

Press Contact:

Leslie Patterson-Tyler

(215) 790-7173



Merriam Theater Forums, hosted by Kimmel Center Inc., and conducted by Penn Project for Civic Engagement, generate interest in re-imagining the heart of the Kimmel Center Cultural Campus

Philadelphia, December 8, 2017 – The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts today formally released a comprehensive report summarizing the scores of ideas for re-imagining the Merriam Theater, which follows a spirited series of community forums about the Theater’s future led by the Penn Project for Civic Engagement.

While strongly committed to the preservation of the performance venue, Kimmel Center Management, which owns and operates the Merriam, announced last summer that it will issue a Request for Proposals to redevelop the property, including the prospect of a residential or mixed-use tower atop the preserved theater.   At the same time, the Kimmel Center envisions the redevelopment as a centerpiece for its performing arts campus, hosting 1,400 performances for more than one million people per year, making it the second largest performing arts center in the nation, behind only New York’s Lincoln Center.

In “Reimagining The Merriam Theater : A Community Conversation,” the Penn Project for Civic Engagement summarizes its work in leading three separate community conversations, held on September 24th and 25th, to solicit ideas about the building’s future from more than 100 community members, as well as fans of the theater from throughout the Greater Philadelphia region.  As the Report explains, the community participants called on the Kimmel Center to re-imagine the theater as a “vibrant center of activity day and night that ties together the Kimmel campus and radiates out into the larger Philadelphia arts community . . .”

To achieve this goal, forum participants urged the Kimmel Center, which owns and operates the Merriam as part of its Center City arts campus that also includes the Kimmel Center and the Academy of Music, to consider a variety of ideas to enliven the site, including:

  • Creating small, flexible spaces throughout the renovated Merriam “that community members could embrace as venues to showcase the diversity of Philadelphia’s cultural riches,” either as performance venues, pre-or post-performance discussion spaces, rehearsal space, or even as spaces that the Merriam’s neighbors could use for community events when the building is “dark”;
  • Improving the Merriam “experience” both in the theater and by making it easier to get to the theater, as well as offering customers a guide to affordable pre-and-post-performance dining venues;
  • Creating evidence that the Merriam “gets it” in relating to millennials by offering “touches” like bike racks, smartphone charging stations and backpack lockers at the theater;
  • Developing tech-savvy ideas to celebrate the rich diversity of performances that have graced the Merriam’s stage over its 100-year history; and
  • Maximizing the building’s revenue potential in order to support its operation from “its core identity as an artistic hub and a community hive,” regardless of whether the Kimmel pursues possible plans to build a residential or mixed-use tower atop the theater.

“We are gratified by the outpouring of support for the Merriam among people from all walks of life in our city and region, and we thank everyone who participated in our forums, sharing their thinking with us,” said Anne Ewers, President and CEO of the Kimmel Center.  “They generated dozens of interesting and creative ideas to make the Merriam a hub of artistic and community activity, and we believe these ideas can inform and influence the formal proposals for the Merriam’s redevelopment.”

“The Merriam Theater enjoys passionate support from an incredibly diverse audience, and to its credit, the Kimmel Center recognized the importance of soliciting their input in considering the Theater’s future,” said Harris Steinberg, Executive Director of the Lindy Institute for Urban Innovation at Drexel University, who worked to structure and lead the forums along with project partners Harris Sokoloff of the Penn Project for Civic Engagement and Erica Atwood, CEO of First Degree Consulting.  “The forums gave structure to some really creative ideas about the future of the Merriam and more broadly about the larger Kimmel Arts Campus in the heart of Center City, and we appreciate the involvement of the forum participants in sharing their time and creativity during this process.”

The Kimmel Center has issued an RFP for development proposals by the end of November, and the Merriam Theater Forums Report will be part of the package of materials issued with the RFP, so that the Report’s recommendations can inform the responses.

For more information about the Reimagining the Merriam Theater: A Community Conversation please contact Leslie Patterson-Tyler at (215) 790-7173.


The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts

Located in the heart of Center City, Philadelphia, the Kimmel Center’s mission is to operate a world-class performing arts center that engages and serves a broad audience through diverse programming, arts education, and community outreach. The Kimmel Center Campus is comprised of the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts (Verizon Hall, Perelman Theater, SEI Innovation Studio, and the Merck Arts Education Center), the Academy of Music (owned by the Philadelphia Orchestra Association), and the Merriam Theater. The Kimmel Center is also home to eight Resident Companies: The Philadelphia Orchestra, Opera Philadelphia, The Pennsylvania Ballet, The Philly POPS, PHILADANCO, The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, The Philadelphia Chamber Music Society and Curtis Institute of Music. With nearly 9,000 seats per night, The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts is the region’s most impactful performing arts center, and the second largest in the country. TD Bank, America’s Most Convenient Bank, is the season sponsor of the Kimmel Center’s 2017-2018 Season. American Airlines is the official airline of Broadway Philadelphia. For additional information, visit


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For a PDF version of this press release, click here.

For a link to the Executive Summary of the conversations, click here



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