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Kohl’s co-founder pledges $10M to downtown theatre campus project

The $60M campus is anticipated to open fall 2023.

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  • | 9:38 a.m. May 12, 2021
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NAPLES — Tony-award winning Broadway producers and Naples residents Patty and Jay Baker have committed to a second $10 million pledge for the new Gulfshore Playhouse Cultural Campus in the downtown Naples Design District.

With a planned groundbreaking for September, the Bakers recently pledged to

match all gifts made by July 4, 2021 up to $10 million, according to a statement. The Bakers, who kicked off the campaign with a $10 million match gift in 2016, now have pledged up to $20 million for the new Cultural Campus, the release adds, which features the Baker Theatre and Education Center. A $60 million project, the new campus for the Gulfshore Playhouse is on the corner of 1st Avenue South and Goodlette-Frank Road, part of a larger plan for the city to redevelop the East of 41 downtown area.

Courtesy. From left to right: Joel Markus, Patt and Jay Baker and Kristen Coury, at a recent event celebrating the Gulfshore Playhouse capital campaign for its new $60 million project.
Courtesy. From left to right: Joel Markus, Patt and Jay Baker and Kristen Coury, at a recent event celebrating the Gulfshore Playhouse capital campaign for its new $60 million project.

“Jay and I have always believed in laying eggs where we nest, and we nest in Naples,” says Patty Baker, a Gulfshore Playhouse board member, in the statement. “When (Gulfshore Playhouse CEO and producing artistic director Kristen Coury) shared with us her vision for creating a beautiful new state-of-the-art theater in Naples that would serve our community with professional programming and impactful education initiatives, we stepped up as the first supporters.”

“We know this project will create transformational change in downtown Naples and enhance the vibrant redevelopment occurring in the downtown area,” adds Jay Baker, co-founder of the national retail chain Kohl’s and a longtime Gulfshore Playhouse donor. “It’s time to see this project come to life, and we invite others to join us in making it happen today.”

The Bakers’ pledge has already picked up some company: Naples area philanthropists Patricia and George Kraus pledged $1 million, the release states.

In the last four months of the pandemic, Gulfshore Playhouse has raised another $14 million for the new Cultural Campus. The new campus is one of the first in the nation to be formally named a Theater and Education Center, the release states. It’s expected to have 60 full time employees, 10 interns/apprentices, and more than 400 visiting artists.

“We know that cultural centers are recognized for their importance of serving as a place for presenting powerful art, but equally important are the spaces within where people can engage, meet with friend  and discuss current events,” Coury, the Gulfshore Playhouse CEO, says in the release. “In our 350-seat mainstage theater we’ll bring together actors, director and designers from around the country to create new works, reimagine classics and showcase world premieres that inspire personal transformation.

“The programs taught in our dedicated education wing will serve students of all ages, and include a boardroom, classrooms and rehearsal spaces. We have also created several of our theater and rehearsal spaces to be available as rental facilities for parties, weddings and meetings.”

The new Gulfshore Playhouse Cultural Campus is anticipated to open fall 2023.





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