Wheaton Arts and Cultural Center


11507 Georgia Avenue
Wheaton, MD  20902

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Project Team

Developer
Montgomery Housing Partnership (MHP)
301-622-2400

Montgomery County Government
Department of General Services

Office of Planning and Development

Ronnie Warner, Chief
240-777-6071

Current Status: Planning

The County is co-locating a new arts and cultural center with an affordable housing development by Montgomery Housing Partnership (MHP) in the Wheaton Arts and Entertainment District. MHP will develop the former WMATA site with affordable rental and for sale housing units, as well as a parking garage. The arts center will be included on the ground floor of the multifamily building fronting on Georgia Avenue. The center will include two performance spaces, classrooms, gallery space, back of house support space, and administrative offices. More information about the arts center and the accompanying housing project will be posted to this webpage as it becomes available.

MHP’s sketch plan application for the development was accepted for review in August 2023. More information can be found here. The Mandatory Referral for the Wheaton Arts and Cultural Center was reviewed concurrently, more information is available here. Both the sketch plan and the Mandatory Referral were reviewed and approved by the Planning Board on November 30, 2023. The staff packet can be reviewed here, and attachments can be reviewed here.”

Arts and Cultural Center Program

The center will include two performance spaces, classrooms, gallery space, back of house support space, and administrative offices, as envisioned by the arts facilities planners retained by the County. Below is a full description of the spaces, which can also be found on pages 5-6 of the June 2019 Feasibility Study Programming & Business Plan Report. The programming and business plan put forth the components of a facility that the arts facilities consultants concluded was viable to be supported by Wheaton and the surrounding community. These were the spaces that informed the Program of Requirements (POR). The POR and the current layout of the facility within the MHP project includes all these spaces.

Space Type Seats Format
Performance Space 150-300 Flexible, convertible theater
Studio Space 100 Teaching/Rehearsal/Performance
Classroom Space 1 25 Teaching/Rehearsal
Classroom Space 2 25 Teaching/Rehearsal
Gallery Spaces 75 Art Gallery (in lobby or separate space)
Administrative Space (Resident Orgs.) 6-10 Workstations
Administrative Space (Operator) 6-10 Workstations
The following expands upon these spaces and how they might be used.
  • Performance Space: Ideally, the performance space should have the flexibility to be utilized in myriad ways and formats so that different types of arts groups and non-arts organizations can use the performance space for a variety of activities. This can include theater productions, dance performances, concerts, recitals, amplified music, lectures, film screenings, and special events. The performance space may be used as a function space accommodating weddings, private parties, and other non-performance events. This would be the largest public assembly space in the building.  Performing Arts Facilities Planning (PAFP) envisions that a flexible, convertible theater is preferable to a proscenium because the former would allow for various seating configurations to support a diversity of performance and event types. 
  • Studio Space: The studio space serves as an ancillary space to the performance area in that it can be used as a rehearsal room or a performance space for smaller productions such as staged readings, guest speakers or meetings.  It can also be used as a teaching space, especially suited for dance or theater classes.  Ideally, the flooring would support dance instruction, temporary or otherwise.
  • Classroom Spaces: The two classroom spaces suggested will be utilized for artists to teach workshops, or for resident organizations to plan and prepare for upcoming productions.  Workshops could include art classes or professional development courses taught through the Arts Incubator program.  These spaces should have capability to support visual art-making, as well as have technology for conferences and meetings using media.
  • Gallery Space: A space for visual artists to exhibit their work could be configured in different forms, such as a separated room or dedicated walls and surfaces around the lobby and other areas of the facility.  If a separate room is budgeted, this would allow for the gallery space to be utilized for other special events in addition to presenting visual art.
  • Administrative Offices:  Several respondents of the artist survey, which PAFP conducted in the spring of 2018, indicated that access to administrative office space at a low price-point would be of value.  PAFP suggests that 6-10 workstations for resident organizations and 6-10 workstations for the operator’s administrative staff should be considered in the development of the facility.  These workstations can be configured in several different ways, including combining all organizations into one office space with varying kinds of dividers or creating separate rooms for the resident organizations, or any other combination depending on the budget available and the desired vision for the administrative atmosphere.  PAFP does not recommend that workstations be relegated to the other classroom, studio or performance spaces.  Ultimately, the layout for these spaces will be determined in the next phase of the study with the architect and space programmer.

Project Background

OPD is managing the planning, site feasibility, design and construction for a new arts and cultural facility to be located in the Wheaton Arts and Entertainment District. The project is proposed to be co-located with an affordable housing project by Montgomery Housing Partnership (MHP).

Arts facilities planners were retained by the County in March 2018 to conduct a comprehensive analysis that assessed the vision for a new arts and cultural space and provide recommendations on the type, size and scope of the proposed arts facility. The first task for the consultants was to undertake a community engagement process to discover the community and cultural sector’s arts space needs. The consultants kicked off this task in April 2018 with tours of Wheaton and County-wide cultural arts facilities, one-on-one interviews and focus groups, as well as a presentation to the Wheaton Urban District Advisory Committee at its April 2018 meeting. Click here to review that presentation. The consultants then held public meetings to hear from community members on April 30, 2018 and May 1, 2018. After conducting this preliminary research, the consultants completed a market analysis and benchmarking study, which can be found here. In June 2019, the consultants completed a preliminary program plan and business plan for the proposed facility. Please find that report here, with an accompanying presentation here

In February 2020, a Program of Requirements (POR) was completed. The POR includes detailed information about the specific space needs of the facility such as square footage and equipment requirements. The architect and a specialty theatre consultant used the 2019 facility planning reports as a basis for the POR. OPD worked throughout 2020-2022 test fitting the facility on various sites in the Wheaton Arts and Entertainment District, and updating stakeholders such as the Wheaton Urban District Advisory Committee.

The County Council approved the Wheaton Arts and Cultural Center as a standalone Capital Improvement Project as part of the FY21 budget; funding was for planning and initial design activities. In January 2023, as part of his Recommended FY24 Capital Budget, the County Executive included substantial funding for the facility for the first time, including funding for future construction. The County Council approved this funding in Spring 2023.

Community Outreach

  • Arts Facilities planners were retained by the County in 2018 to conduct a feasibility study that assessed the vision for a new arts and cultural space and provided recommendations on the type, size and scope of the proposed arts facility.
  • The first task was to undertake a community engagement process to discover the community and cultural sector’s arts space needs.
  • The consultants kicked off this task in April 2018 with tours of more than a dozen cultural arts venues around the county, interviews, and focus groups, as well as a presentation to the Wheaton Urban District Advisory Committee at its April 2018 meeting .
    • A Feasibility Study Working Group of residents, artists, arts leaders/advocates, and business leaders was convened and met several times throughout the facility planning process.
    • Interviews and focus groups included artists and arts leaders within Wheaton and the County, Wheaton business owners, arts consultants, and staff and students from Einstein High School Visual and Performing Arts Academy. Interviews were conducted with 44 people, and two focus groups were held.
  • The consultants then held public meetings to hear from community members on April 30, 2018 and May 1, 2018. Meetings were in person, in Wheaton, and Spanish translators were available. 
  • The consultants circulated two online surveys, one for artists and arts organizations and another for members of the community. The survey was distributed in English and Spanish. The community survey produced 370 total responses, the artist survey 27 total responses.
  • In September 2018 the consultants issued a preliminary recommendations report, which included a market analysis and benchmarking study.
    • The interviews, focus groups, surveys, public meetings and arts facilities tours informed this study, which asked what the cultural facility needs of the community are, what the market is for a new arts facility, and what similar communities have done in terms of cultural facilities.
  • In June 2019, the consultants completed a preliminary program plan and business plan for the proposed facility, and presented their findings to the working group and elected officials.
  • The County updated the Wheaton Urban District Advisory Committee at its June 2021 meeting.
  • The County briefed the Wheaton Urban District Advisory Committee at its February 2023 meeting.
  • A community meeting was held in March 2023 for MHP’s Sketch Plan Application.

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