Brave New Workshop Pays $725K for Downtown Bldg.

The theater company plans to keep its longstanding and current home at 2605 Hennepin Avenue in Uptown; its classes will continue to be offered from that location while the comedy revues and custom business offerings will be housed within the just-bought downtown building.

The Brave New Workshop bought and plans to move into the Hennepin Stages Theater building in downtown Minneapolis-the latest indication that revitalization may be occurring on Hennepin Avenue.

Brave New Workshop paid previous owner, the City of Minneapolis, $725,000 for the building, the city said Friday. The city issued a request for proposals for the theater in July 2010, approved the sale to Brave New Workshop on February 25, and closed on the sale this week.

Brave New Workshop is a theater company that has been performing satirical sketch comedy and improvisation since 1958-longer than any other theater in the United States, it claims.

In addition to operating its comedy theater, the company also offers improv, writing, and performance classes-and offers custom business entertainment, keynote speaking, training, and messaging through its “Creative Outreach” arm.

“Fifty years after Dudley Riggs founded the Brave New Workshop, this groundbreaking theater is making yet another contribution to Minneapolis with an exciting move to a revitalizing Hennepin Avenue,” Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said in a statement. “Their move adds to the growing excitement on Hennepin and will bring 30,000 more theatergoers downtown to appreciate the wide variety of arts and entertainment available there.”

Brave New Workshop said that it plans to keep its longstanding and current home at 2605 Hennepin Avenue in Uptown. Its classes will continue to be offered from that location while the comedy revues and Creative Outreach offerings will be housed within the just-bought downtown building.

“We could not be more excited to add 824 Hennepin to the Brave New Workshop brand,” John Sweeney, co-owner of the Brave New Workshop, said in a statement. “Because of 52 years of support from this community, we have become a world-class theater and now we will have a world-class location to engage our audiences! We have been on Hennepin since 1958, here's to 50 more years of laughter on the Ave!”

Hennepin Avenue in downtown Minneapolis has lost a number of tenants over the years-including many at the struggling Block E development. Applebee's, Borders, Bellanotte, GameWorks, Hooters, Panchero's Mexican Grill, and Snyders Drug have all vacated the $149 million development in recent years.

In addition to the Brave New Workshop's move to Hennepin Avenue, the Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts-located at 528 Hennepin Avenue-is scheduled to open in September.

However, not all theaters are faring as well. In a letter posted to its Web site on April 21, the Southern Theater in Minneapolis said that it needed to raise $400,000 by April 30 in order to keep its doors open.

“The financial difficulties that have beset the Southern Theater for the past few years have reached a state of emergency,” the letter said, adding that the funding would help bring the theater “out of the financial mire in which it has been sinking for the past decade.”

A Monday morning phone call to find out whether the theater's funding goal was reached wasn't immediately returned.