The new home for Vaud-Villities will be home to much, much more.
"To have our own space to do what we want when we want is going to be amazing," said Scott A. Jones, a 29-year veteran of the homegrown production outfit and the assistant artistic director.
Part of what they want is to let others do what they want in the Northland Performing Arts Center, which Jones said should be ready in April.
The nonprofit Ohio Performance Academy Inc. was incorporated in July 2008 to make the new facility, once it's completed, available to arts organizations other than Vaud-Villities Productions, according to Kent D. Stuckey, chairman of the board of trustees.
Jones can recall his first year in the annual show, when the dancers rehearsed in a warehouse on State Street, dodging in and out of columns.
Plenty of rehearsal space, free of such obstacles, as well as room for the troupe's 600 linear feet of costumes, a recording studio, 11,000-square-foot "black box" theater, green room, lobby, costume shop, commercial kitchen and administrative offices is taking shape in a portion of the old JCPenney building at the former Northland Mall site.
While arts is the main focus of the renovations being made to 35,000 square feet, roughly a fourth of the overall structure, the commercial kitchen means the facility also can be used for receptions, banquets, conventions and trade shows, Jones said.
"There's nothing of that size, that space here in Columbus," he said.
"The sky's the limit," said Toni Auch, a member of Vaud-Villities since the 1970s and artistic director for 16-plus years. "We want to do something that will enrich, if we can, the area. There are so many possibilities."
"We weren't guided by any existing model," Stuckey said. "To our knowledge, this is a unique facility with a unique mission."
The board chairman predicted that the overall redevelopment of the former mall site could serve as an "engine of commerce for the community."
The space for the theater, which is replacing what was previously the automotive department of JCPenney, can be configured in various ways with the use of curtains to allow for even the smallest, most intimate of shows from small troupes that often struggle to find an affordable locale for performances, Stuckey said.
The theater can seat 800 people and has standing room to accommodate a total of 1,500, he added.
"We can configure this space to whatever we want," said Brian Kerr of the Ohio Performance Academy.
"The performance space itself is designed to be very flexible as to its use," Stuckey said.
An additional 50-seat theater, perhaps suitable for children's theatrical groups, is being prepared near the recording studio, Kerr said. He added that a boardroom near the building's administrative offices will be available as meeting space for community groups.
It was Kerr who offered the figure of 600 linear feet of costumes owned by Vaud-Villities. He's not sure what that translates into in terms of number of costumes.
"A lot," he said.