Orange County

Will pledges be enough for The ArtsCenter's move to a new home in Carrboro?

A plan to co-locate the future southern branch of the Orange County Library (pictured here), some town offices, the ArtsCenter and other civic groups was lauded as a “dream project” when presented to the Carrboro Board of Aldermen this summer.
A plan to co-locate the future southern branch of the Orange County Library (pictured here), some town offices, the ArtsCenter and other civic groups was lauded as a “dream project” when presented to the Carrboro Board of Aldermen this summer. N&O file photo

Plans are moving forward for the The ArtsCenter to join Carrboro and Orange County governments in the new building being called the South Greensboro Street project, near Open Eye Cafe.

Dan Mayer, executive director of The ArtsCenter, addressed a lingering question about its participation during Tuesday's Board of Aldermen meeting. The ArtsCenter will raise money through an upcoming capital campaign to pay for its share of the new downtown building's design and construction costs, he said.

"We do not anticipate seeking financing with the town of Carrboro," Mayer said. "It is customary in capital campaigns for people to make pledges. Most people who make pledges make good on those pledges. This is not a project where we want to add debt. We don't need debt. That's not our intention."

But Carrboro may have to provide "bridge financing," which Mayer said would allow The ArtsCenter to use the pledges from its capital campaign as collateral with the town. It usually takes three to five years to finish collecting pledges, especially for large gifts, he said.

Alderwoman Jacquelyn Gist asked that any future agreements extended to The ArtsCenter be discussed openly and transparently.

"I want to clarify that The ArtsCenter will pay its portion," Gist said. "There has been some confusion. If we did finance a portion of it, it would be with a lot of public input and the public would be aware that this was happening. ... The bottom line is that The ArtsCenter is paying for The ArtsCenter and the town is not."

The ArtsCenter is moving from its present location on East Main Street. It already has committed to the planning phase of the project and will pay its share for conceptual designs, according to Mayer.

The Carrboro Board of Aldermen and Orange County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved an agreement last October to share the construction costs and space in a new 65,000-square-foot building at 203 S. Greensboro St. It will house the south branch of the Orange County Public Library and some municipal offices for Carrboro. Finalizing the agreement bringing The ArtsCenter aboard is the next step. The board discussed the agreement but put off the vote to approve it until the next regular meeting.

Alderman Sammy Slade was absent. Fellow board member Damon Seils said Slade had some unanswered questions about the agreement with The ArtsCenter, which prompted the delay. Pushing back the vote on the agreement by a week will not slow down the overall project, Seils said.

The property is a town-owned, 88-space parking lot.

The county already has put $1.2 million toward the $15 million project, and has another nearly $6.4 million budgeted in the next two years. The town would pay half the cost of preparing the site and building common elements, including road improvements, roofs and elevators.

The project is scheduled to open in fall 2019.

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