Manbites Dog Theater sells its building to investment firm

Modern Energy has purchased the Manbites Dog Theater building for $1.1 million.
Modern Energy has purchased the Manbites Dog Theater building for $1.1 million. The News & Observer

A Durham-based energy investment firm has purchased the Manbites Dog Theater building in downtown Durham.

Modern Energy, which invests in energy technology companies, purchased the building for $1.1 million, the theater said in a release.

Manbites Dog Theater, located at 703 Foster St., said earlier this year that it would be closing after its 31st season. Manbites Dog will rent back the space from Modern Energy until its last season is finished at the end of May. The theater will go on hiatus when its season ends.

Manbites Dog Theater originally purchased its current location in 1997 for $205,000, according to county records. The 5,300-square-foot building, which was built in 1947, was appraised for $473,026 in 2016.

After the building is sold, Manbites Dog management plans to use the funds from the sale to create what it refers to as “Manbites Dog 3.0.” The new venture will provide financial support to local theater companies and artists through a new agency fund at Triangle Community Foundation. The theater said it anticipates launching a grant application in 2019 to support artists and projects.

“We still believe in theater as an ongoing conversation between artists and audiences,” artistic director Jeff Storer said earlier this year. “And we want to continue supporting theater artists who share that belief.”

Modern Energy, formerly known as Wylan Energy, was founded by Benjamin Abram, a Duke University graduate, in 2016. The firm reported raising as much as $9.7 million earlier this year, according to a filing it submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Abram said the firm is using that money to invest in green energy technology and solar installations.

“Our view is that the way energy has been produced and consumed over the course of the last century has been pretty much the same until relatively recently,” Abram said. “It used to be the case that it all came from a big power plant that would be 10 or 15 miles away from your business – but today there are so many people that have solar panels on their roof or smart thermostats.”

Modern Energy is currently headquartered at Peabody Place – home to the restaurant Parker & Otis – but the company wanted to have a larger space for its growing team, Abram said. The company currently has around 12 employees.

“We are so grateful to the Manbites board for selling to us,” Abram said. “Change is hard, but I am so impressed with the way that the team and leadership of Manbites … really created an opportunity for their community by buying the building 20 years ago. I feel fortunate to be a small part of their next phase with these funds going to their roving community theater model.”

Zachery Eanes: 919-419-6684, @zeanes