A major gift will move the Playwrights' Center a lot closer to the finish line in its plan to create a new home in St. Paul.

The Knight Foundation, which supports journalism and the arts, is giving the center $1.5 million. Currently located in a former church in Minneapolis' Seward neighborhood, the Playwrights' Center will use the money to purchase and fund an estimated $8 million project to buy and renovate a warehouse space on Raymond Avenue.

The new center will be more than double the size of the current one. It will include two stages as well as rehearsal space, meeting rooms and common areas that will allow the organization to extend its outreach to theater lovers. This fall the center, which champions plays and new work, also received $850,000 in the state's $1.9 billion bonding bill.

The new grant enables the Playwrights' Center to hire the HGA design firm. Based in Minneapolis, the firm has led projects around the world. Its local projects include the American Swedish Institute's Nelson Cultural Center and Ordway Concert Hall.

Chris Hewitt