Following the Department of Planning and Zoning's approval of the Merriweather Post Pavilion's final development plan last week, residents gathered under the roof of the outdoor venue Tuesday night as project architect Jamie Pett shared the planned 10-year renovations, including a higher roof, new concessions and two-story warehouse.
After decades of changes since Merriweather's opening in 1967, Howard Hughes officials are hoping to raise the pavilion's roof to accommodate the change in technology, concert performance and audience enjoyment. At its lowest point over the stage, Pett said, the roof stands roughly 33 feet.
"Many modern day shows are using modern screens and getting those screens and other devices in those heights has been problematic," Pett said, pointing to digitally constructed plan outlines. "The intent is to raise the roof about 20 feet. The height of that may sound daunting at first, but the height of the roof is well within the vertical elevation of the hillside and below treetops."
Other renovations — such as a redesigned west entrance, a new box office, concession stands, merchandise area and restrooms — have been completed, Pett said, with environmental studies conducted to save any trees possible.
"[Environmental consultant] Biohabitats conducted a study on any tree in the area that may have been impacted by redevelopment," he said. "It's important to know that the facility is very broadly surrounded by trees, both on the specific site and adjacent site of Symphony Woods."
With complaints about the concert sound levels throughout the summer, Wilde Lake resident Carol Galbraith jumped at the chance to grab a microphone and express her concerns for the community.
"Based on past performance and unresponsiveness during the summer to complaints about noise, I'm deeply distrustful of Merriweather and its owner, Howard Hughes," said Galbraith, who has lived in the area for about 24 years. "Just glancing at the new projected roof; I'm not an acoustical engineer, but [the sound level] is so bad the way the roof is now, raising it higher is going to, from what I can see, only make it worse. It's designed to shoot the sound out to more people [who live] up there."
Galbraith said she's concerned for herself, her family and her neighbors, especially with both Pett and Canfield being "partially responsive" during the evening's pre-submission community meeting.
"The only thing that got me to come out here is the direct impact on us," she said. "It's been a real eye-opener to me in terms of our county and state government as well as Howard Hughes Cooperation. It's been an awakening for me."
Howard Hughes representative and I.M.A. employee Brad Canfield also addressed resident questions and concerns regarding the 47-year-old venue. With such a rich history, Canfield said he wants "to do right by Merriweather."
"We wanted to keep the character of Merriweather alive," Canfield said. "This was actually a working farm from the 1800s to the mid-1900s. Not many changes have happened since [its opening]. We finally are ready to put shovels on the ground and redo Merriweather."
Current plans stretch out through 2025, Canfield added, to include bigger LED screens, an elevated stage as well as a two-story building behind the stage for dressing rooms, a dining area and small plunge pool.
"We're not increasing the footprint or the size," he said. "We have also worked with a company to do the acoustical testing and we will submit the results. Once we have that report submitted, there will be one more community input session."
Pett continued to ensure residents that they will make "every effort to address your concerns moving forward."
"This is not something that's going to stick out like a sore thumb," Pett said. "When you're on the property, it enhances the ability to view the shows."