The City of Murfreesboro has notified Murfreesboro Little Theatre of its decision to immediately close the city-owned building the performing arts theater currently utilizes because of fire safety and maintenance problems.
The City of Murfreesboro owns the Playhouse property, which has been leased to the Murfreesboro Little Theatre since 2005. The current lease is set to expire in April 2020.
Under the lease, the Murfreesboro Little Theatre is responsible for maintaining the property. The city’s fire marshal and codes officials conducted a full inspection of the facility last Friday.
The city does not believe upgrades to meet city codes are a financially viable option for the building.
“While the need for performing arts space in our community is obviously of great value and importance, the city cannot consciously allow a building deemed unsafe to be occupied nor does the city maintain confidence in the ability to resolve issues of non-compliance,” Community Services Executive Director Angela Jackson said.
On July 24, Jackson notified Charlie Parker, president of the Murfreesboro Little Theater Board of Directors, that the city had identified “fire and life safety hazards” in the structure and suggested that the performing arts theater cease summer programs at the building, effective immediately.
“Murfreesboro Little Theatre has hosted many programs and community arts events over the years at this site, and a decision like this is never easy and is not taken lightly,” Jackson said. “However, the most important factor in our decision is public safety.”
"During my initial visit to the Playhouse, I noted imminent threats to life safety regarding the lack of working fire alarm or suppression systems, proper emergency egress and exit pathways, or proper stairwell egress,” Fire Marshal Carl Peas said. “Additionally, the storage of significant amounts of combustibles, and concerns with structural stability present significant danger to responding firefighters even if the building is unoccupied.”
Built in 1939 by the Youth Council of the Works Progress Administration, the facility on Ewing Boulevard served a Scout Lodge for many years. Murfreesboro Little Theatre has performed there since the early 1960s.
“During our initial inspection July 24, we noticed sagging floor joists over the theater area,” City Building & Codes Director Robert Holtz said. “The amount of sag was appreciable and was partially-supported by a wall constructed from logs that were part of the original construction. One log at the bottom of the wall had shifted and rolled partially out of the wall causing concern that additional loading could be added to a floor system that was already sagging.”