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Shakespeare & Company sells part of Lenox Property

12:00AM / Thursday, July 14, 2005
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Lenox – Completing the next phase of the organization’s financial stabilization, Shakespeare & Company announced today that it has sold a 30-acre parcel of its 63-acre property in the heart of Lenox. The closing documents were signed yesterday between Shakespeare & Company’s Board Chairman Michael A. Miller and James C. Jurney, Sr. for $3.9 million. The twenty-eight year old Shakespeare & Company, an internationally recognized cultural institution based in the Berkshires, originally purchased the 63-acre tract from The National Music Foundation for $3.5 million in 1999. The 30-acre parcel, located at the northernmost end of the property and stretching from Kemble Street to Old Stockbridge Road, includes the turn-of-the-century Spring Lawn mansion, Carriage House, woods, pond and a number of other buildings. “Shakespeare & Company will retain 33 acres, which represent a more manageable campus of sufficient size to conduct our programs and fulfill our vision for the future,” said Mark W. Jones, Executive Director. Spring Lawn mansion is the site of Spring Lawn Theatre, Shakespeare & Company’s smaller 102-seat performance venue. James Jurney, Sr. has owned and operated oceanfront resorts in Myrtle Beach, SC. His son, James C. Jurney, Jr., and daughter-in-law, Gwendolyn Jurney, will join him in developing new plans for Spring Lawn. Gwen and James Jurney, Jr. are the owners of the fashion design firm Seize Sur Vingt in New York City. The new masters of Spring Lawn propose to create an exclusive resort on the acreage. They would restore Spring Lawn mansion and its Carriage House to their original Gilded Age grandeur and seek to utilize the grounds in a manner appropriate to both the history of the estate, ecological balance, and the amenities requisite for a luxury resort. The Jurneys would like to see the resort in operation in time for the fall foliage of 2006, however, as they intend for the restoration to take place with the highest quality craftsmanship, they have set no definite timetable. “The sale of the 30 acres of our property is the successful conclusion to a process we began over a year ago,” said Michael A. Miller. “Shakespeare & Company’s Board of Directors wisely decided to ensure fiscal stability for the Company by reducing its debt through a sale of part of its 63 acres that it did not need and could not adequately maintain. The sale will enable the Company to eliminate its operating debt of $2.2 million and will increase its building fund to almost $2 million. And, as important as this sale is to Shakespeare and Company, it is also a significant win for our neighbors, Lenox and the Berkshires as the buyers are committed to restoring one of most beautiful turn of the century mansions, Spring Lawn, to its original splendor.” The Jurneys propose to create 16 suites on the second and third floors of Spring Lawn. The Carriage House may provide additional guest suites. Behind Spring Lawn, down the terraced lawn, a swimming pool and restored tennis courts are planned. “The family who built this house had mingling in mind,” said James Jurney, Jr. “They would invite their families, their friends -- it was an entertainment spot for the entire family. We would like to build on that. Our restoration plans are in the several million-dollar range. You just can’t do it for less. This will be a win-win-situation, for Shakespeare & Company, for the town, for the state, and for ourselves. We look forward to continuing to develop and deepen our relationship with Tina and her Company as well as the community.” “Tina and I are thrilled that our dear friend and supporter Carole Murko of The Boulderwood Group was able to interest the Jurney Family in taking on the Spring Lawn project,” added Miller. “The Jurneys have been extraordinarily generous in letting us stay in Spring Lawn while they begin their renovation plans,” said Tina Packer. “We are planning a long-standing collaboration here; we’re not just dividing the property and then they go on with their business and we go on with ours. This is a unique and wonderful opportunity for our guests to enjoy staying in a beautiful turn-of-the-century restored hotel that is so close to our theatres; and for all of us to share the beautiful walking trails and grounds that will link the town with Spring Lawn and with Shakespeare & Company.” Shakespeare & Company plans to replace the loss of the Spring Lawn venue with a new 199-seat theatre, which they propose to develop by remodeling and renovating one of the vacant buildings on its property. “We are now planning a capital campaign that will include all of the Company’s needs for the next five years,” said Mark W. Jones. “We have a naming gift for a new theatre from our wonderful trustee, Elayne P. Bernstein, and some of the proceeds of the sale will be used for short-term improvements. We will then address the issue of major capital campaign. Founded in 1978 and now in its 28th year, Shakespeare & Company made its home at Edith Wharton’s turn-of-the-century estate, The Mount, in Lenox until December 1999. Moving its offices to the property in the spring of 2000, the Company spent its final summer performance season at the Mount in 2001 while simultaneously opening both Founders’ and Spring Lawn Theatres. Shakespeare & Company’s season, currently underway, will run through October and features Joan Ackermann’s Ice Glen; The Wharton One-Acts, adapted by Dennis Krausnick; and The Tricky Part by Martin Moran in the Spring Lawn Theatre. In the Founders’ Theatre, on the south side of the property, Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, directed by Daniela Varon and Shakespeare’s King John, directed by Tina Packer, will run in rotating repertoire until September 3. The Fall Foliage Season will include a special engagement of The Tell-Tale Poe, produced and written by Gordon Hyatt and featuring award-winning stage and screen actor F. Murray Abraham and actress Elizabeth Banks, a native of Pittsfield, MA. For further information on S&Co’s productions for its 2005 season please visit the website at: www.shakespeare.org.
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