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DRAWING BOARD - Children's Theatre starts over

The Children's Theatre of Maine has started over - again - in its search for a place to call home permanently. "We were hoping that the armory would work out," said Pamela DiPasquale, the group's artistic director. The city of South Portland outbid the theater to buy the armory at the foot of the Casco Bay Bridge.

The theater would have made it a permanent home that might have had room for other artists or arts organizations, an idea similar to one proposed in the Phoenix. (See "Armory Arts Center," by Jeff Inglis, January 6.) The city has not yet decided what to do with the building, which it plans to buy for $650,000, in part as a result of public support. Some possible uses include a public works garage or an expanded police and fire station, because the property adjoins the existing central police and fire stations.

The theater rents three different spaces for its various programs, but rent on its theater-performance space on Marginal Way is getting more expensive. "We can no longer afford to stay there," DiPasquale said.

The search is also costly - the theater spent "several thousand dollars" with lawyers, inspectors, architects, and other consultants who helped the group decide whether to bid on the building and how much to offer.

The theater has been looking for a home for the past seven years. This is the second building on which the group had a serious offer that was shot down by a city government. In 2005, an offer on a building in Westbrook was stymied by city government there, because the city wanted a for-profit business in that space.

DiPasquale said she does not think the theater group has done anything to cause governments to dislike the group. "We want to be part of somebody's community," she said.

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