Until recently, 3400 Main Street—a block in Midtown bounded by Main, Holman, Travis, and Francis, was a parking lot for Trinity Episcopal Church across the street. A Google Street View photograph of the block taken last October shows aging blacktop overgrown in some areas with grass and surrounded by a chain-link fence topped with barbed wire. Yesterday, Mayor Annise Parker helped inaugurate a new chapter for the site by breaking ground for the non-profit Midtown Arts and Theater Center Houston (MATCH), a $25-million dollar project, scheduled to open in fall 2015, which will provide 59,000 square feet of performance, exhibition, rehearsal, and office space for small- to medium-sized arts organizations.
Emceed by George Levan, a member of MATCH’s board of directors, the event included a specially commissioned work by Musiqa composer Marcus Moroney, performed by the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra Brass Trio, and an address by Ann Stern, president of the Houston Endowment, the project’s most important donor.
Emily Todd, the president of the MATCH board, said the event was the culmination of over a decade of planning, including numerous consultations with Houston arts organizations about their needs, choosing a site, and raising funds (MATCH has raised just over $20 million of their $25 million target).
“It shows what Houston can do,” Todd said earlier today. “This was a really good idea that’s going to become a reality.”
The need comes from the fact that many of Houston’s mid-size arts organizations are currently located off the beaten path in outdated, inadequate facilities. “Many of the arts groups have operated out of properties that started out as something else—none of them are operating out of facilities that were built to be theaters or performance spaces,” Todd said. “Many of them are sort of off the grid. I worked at DiverseWorks [Todd was the executive director from 1995–99], and we spent a lot of time giving directions.”
Designed by Lake | Flato and Studio RED, the multi-story MATCH building will include two fixed-seat theaters, two black box theaters, a large gallery space, rehearsal spaces and classrooms, and 6,500 square feet of office space, in addition to a central breezeway and a coffee and wine bar. A landscaped plaza on the corner of Holman and Main will help connect the building to its neighborhood. That neighborhood, a previously desolate but rapidly growing section of Midtown near the Ensemble/HCC light rail stop, is likely to be transformed by the MATCH complex. The area is already home to the coffee house Double Trouble, the Continental Club, the Ensemble Theatre, and a growing number of art galleries, as well as the main HCC campus.
Strategically located about equidistance from downtown, Rice, the University of Houston, and St. Thomas, MATCH, with its convenient location on the light rail line, hopes to draw in a diverse crowd of students and young professionals
Although MATCH hasn’t yet set rental terms, it’s already been approached by several arts organizations interested in signing on. Todd said that the new building, in addition to creating economies of scale for small organizations, which will be able to share exhibition and theater space, will encourage collaboration between those organizations. Todd imagines arts groups using the facilities anywhere from twice a year to once a week, and said that MATCH isn’t looking for a specific number of tenants.
“The goal is to have the space active day, and I think that’s realistic,” she said. “There’s no target number, just a target energy.”