Tuesday, May 16, 2017


Since the Township has owned the Burgdorff Performing Arts Center, its most prominent tenants, The Strollers theater group, has used the facility rent-free.

But that will soon change, according to Mayor Vic Deluca, who said the company will have to pay some sort of fee as the Township seeks to boost revenue and use from the cultural arts center.

"The Burgdorff has significant room to grow and increase its value as a performing arts facility in the community," said Andrew Fishman, township cultural affairs director. "It's going to take time for long-term resident companies to adapt to its evolving uses."

Deluca agreed, confirming that the Strollers will be required to pay some kind of fee, which has yet to be determined.

The Township Committee recently approved rental fee changes for some groups and non-residents for both The Burgdorff and The Woodland.

The Burgdorff has actually seen a revenue increase during the past few years, with income generated from the facility rising from $10,880 in 2014 to $22,557 in 2015 to $25,316 in 2016.

But with The Strollers using the arts center between 30% and 40% of the time, that is lost revenue that could be made up with a fee or reduced scheduling.

"We'll work with the town, we always have," said Dena Daniel, Strollers president. "I'm not worried about that. I understand and The Strollers understand the need for the Burgdorff to be profitable."

She suggested a facilities fee, perhaps $1 per ticket, that could be created to cover some rental fee: "We think that's a compromise that might be possible."

The Stroller's rent-free status dates back to 1988 when the Township was given the Burgdorff Center and the related land by former owner realtor Jean Burgdorff for $1.00. 

The deed of transfer stipulated that the center could only be used for "charitable, cultural and civic purposes." It also required that a member of The Strollers be appointed to the subcommittee that oversees the Burgdorff Center. 

See the deed HERE and related portion below:

But nowhere in the deed does it state that The Strollers must use the facility rent-free. That has just been the practice, according to Township officials.

"There are many nuances to The Strollers; special status in the Burgdorff, including a massive balancing act of volunteer labor and in-kind services that more than makes up for any rent we might otherwise owe (we keep track)," Daniel said via email. "We are an asset to the facility in myriad ways, the least of which is contributing, enormously, towards the building's upkeep and maintenance. We also provide equipment and services to other organizations that use the space (and other town facilities) at no cost to them or the town." 

She later added, "Aside from that, we feel the town's ability to point to the Strollers as a resident theater company is a selling point for residents and prospective residents. Many people move to South Orange/Maplewood precisely because it is a very artsy place."

When more details of the future agreement with The Strollers are available we will report them.

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