wake up the neighbors + mixed use attraction + urban renaissance

"In addition to opening an incredible, magical theater, CenterStage is providing new life in downtown Richmond, day and night."

Bruce Herrmann, Director of Wilson Butler Architects
  • COST

    $63 million

  • SIZE

    179,000 SF


    Master Planning, Architecture, Interior Design, Construction Administration

After completing the Richmond city-wide arts master plan in 2002, Wilson Butler Architects was selected as the architect to design and restore several performing arts facilities. The story starts with the CenterStage Performing Arts Complex. The CenterStage Performing Arts Complex, builds upon the historic restoration and renovation of the venerable 1,800-seat Carpenter Theatre by adding two additional venues – 150-seat Rhythm Hall and the 200-seat Libby Gottwald Community Playhouse.

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Wilson Butler led the development of this citywide performance art center master plan for Richmond, Virginia. This concerted effort by over 15 collaborating arts and cultural groups (symphony, theater, ballet) to revitalize the performance spaces of downtown began a reawakening of not only these concert halls and theatres, but of the city itself. The CenterStage complex is Phase 1 of this master plan effort.

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The CenterStage Performing Arts Complex encompasses the historic restoration of the 1,800-seat Carpenter Theatre; design of the 200-seat Gottwald Playhouse; 150-seat Rhythm Hall; the Showcase Arts Gallery; and the BrightLights Education Center – spanning an entire city block.

The Carpenter Theatre, home to the Richmond Symphony, has a new fully equipped stage house and a full complement of both front of house and back of house facilities. The fully restored auditorium designed by the prolific John Eberson, opened as a Loew’s Theater (cinema) in 1928. In addition, the Complex includes Showplace Gallery and the BrightLights Education Center.

The Gottwald Playhouse provides a home for smaller, theater groups, and small musical performances. Rhythm Hall hosts a variety of performance groups, including jazz combos, dance troupes and shows presented by the Richmond Jazz Society.

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The CenterStage Complex addition provides much needed amenity improvements – new restrooms, elevators, rehearsal spaces and a kitchen – for the audience to fully enjoy the performance experience and provide long term viability for the theaters. The new kitchen that adjoins the CenterStage lobby supports an effervescent party space, a proven revenue generator for the facility.

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The Carpenter Theatre was built in 1928 in a fantasy Spanish Baroque style. It was designed by Eberson as an atmospheric theatre, having an auditorium with the feeling of an outdoor medieval village plaza with stars and clouds overhead. It is one of the few atmospheric Eberson theaters remaining.

Although listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Carpenter faced deteriorating finishes and the lack of sufficient stage area and support facilities. In addition, an abandoned department store adjacent to the Carpenter Theatre was included in the master performing arts master plan and renovations. The department store is not specifically listed as historic, but was dear to the memories of many who live in Richmond.

The restoration includes a new and enlarged stagehouse, a loading dock for the Carpenter, and the rehabilitation of the former department store into performance, rehearsal and administrative space. These facilities provide a range of venues to meet Richmond’s performing arts needs.

In order to qualify for federal and state historic tax credits, meetings and extensive reviews were required by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (VADHR) and the National Parks Service (NPS).

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