The Muny is one step closer to extending its stay in Forest Park. The Board of Alderman’s Parks Committee voted 4-0 Thursday to extend the outdoor theater’s lease to 2071 and make other changes. The full board is expected to give final approval before its summer recess in mid-July.
The Muny’s lease with the city had been set to expire in 2031. The early extension will help the organization secure donors for its $100 million capital campaign, Dennis Reagan, Muny president and CEO, told board members.
“They need to know we’ll still be here,” Reagan said.
Much of the fundraising goal is earmarked for extensive renovations, including a new stage.
The Muny signed its first long-term lease with the city in 1997. Earlier, it had to apply for permits every five years. If approved, this bill will form the first extension to the agreement.
The Muny pays $1 a year in rent and is required to contribute every year to a parking lot maintenance fund controlled by the city. That amount currently is $40,000 a year, though the total increases by $5,000 every five years.
Another proposed change to the lease would slow down the pace of that incremental increase, upping the total every 10 years instead of every five years. Alderwoman Heather Navarro, D-28th Ward, is the bill’s sponsor. She said the Muny has been a good steward of its grounds, and these changes reflect its intention to invest millions into renovations.
The lease amendment would allow more uses for the fund, which the city said has a current surplus of about $180,000.
“There’s only so much you can do on parking lots,” said Greg Hayes, director of the Department of Parks, Recreation & Forestry. “So why not let them pay for other amenities along the adjacencies, if you will. Landscaping, bodies of water, cleaning up that lagoon down by the lower Muny, and they’re willing to do it at their cost.”
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