Town seeks community ideas on proposed arts center

Dec. 14, 2013 @ 11:03 PM

Carrboro is seeking suggestions from residents as it continues discussion on a proposed arts center and entertainment district.
Town officials held the first of several monthly meetings last week that will allow Carrboro residents to voice their opinions and provide feedback on the proposed 50,000-square-foot space for the arts.
Art Menius, executive director of the ArtsCenter, explained that the proposed arts center is a parallel project to the Carrboro and Orange County Arts and Entertainment District and pointed out that the current location of the ArtsCenter impedes other land developers from further developing their property.
“This simply isn’t adequate space for the ArtsCenter to do art education and the performing arts,” he said.
Menius explained that during the 2013 fiscal year, the ArtsCenter served 89,000 people including 29,000 children, in its current 20,000-square-foot space.
Carrboro community and economic development director Annette Stone said that the proposed project will better align what Carrboro currently has to better benefit the town.
“It is this cultural district that already happens organically here,” she said. “The idea is to bring more organization to that. There are an unbelievable amount of cultural opportunities here in Carrboro.”
Several areas of concern were brought up by the community, including parking and traffic congestion, the proposed center’s possible effects on local businesses, the possible shift of Carrboro to a destination location and the continued ability of area residents to continue to live and work in Carrboro.
The proposed center would address performing and manufacturing arts needs while providing flexible classroom and office space along with room for rehearsals and workshops.
The two-phased project has an estimated cost of $115,000, with more than $30,000 already pledged from the project’s various implementation partners.
The town did not receive the National Endowment for the Arts grant it applied for last year. Stone said that the town is going to reapply but ask for less money and that some funding for the project has been identified.
Phil Szostak said that the proposed center does not have a corporate structure at this point but plans for the center to be self-sustaining while providing an economic development engine that will enhance the community and increase the town’s tax base.
With no official name, the arts center is being referred to as the Center for Arts and Innovation and stands to shift Carrboro’s economy to one based on the creative arts.
Don Rose, vice chairman for the ArtsCenter board of directors, said that similar projects across the nation have been examined for the past 10 years, with these types of arts-based projects being viewed “as a way to energize a city or town and drive economic development.”
“The ArtCenter’s going to have to figure out its place in an arts based economy,” he said.
“I think our vision has outgrown that building,” Szostak said. “I think there is a different mentality on the board (of directors) now. The whole community is connected to the arts center. I think we’re the front porch of the community.”
Information on the next monthly meeting will be announced by the town.