Orange County

Could this lot near downtown Carrboro become a new home for the ArtsCenter?

The nonprofit ArtsCenter has offered arts classes, camps and performances out of this former Piggly Wiggly store in Carrboro for more than 40 years.
The nonprofit ArtsCenter has offered arts classes, camps and performances out of this former Piggly Wiggly store in Carrboro for more than 40 years. tgrubb@heraldsun.com

The community will get its first chance Wednesday, Nov. 13, to join the conversation about a new home for The ArtsCenter.

The arts education and entertainment venue, located near the Cat’s Cradle music club in the 300 East Main development, is in an aging building that offers classes, art exhibits and performances to more than 100,000 students and residents. Parking sometimes can be a problem.

The search for a new home has now settled on a 1.3-acre lot at 303 Jones Ferry Road, near the Orange Water and Sewer Authority. It could house a two-story building with parking underneath. The new building would be about the same size as the existing, 20,220-square-foot ArtsCenter, executive director Dan Mayer said.

So far, only 40 parking spaces are planned, but that number could change, Mayer said. Parking generally will be managed by staggering ArtsCenter programs, and neighboring businesses will be asked about shared parking after hours. The new center’s performance space also will be smaller than the 350-seat Wynn Theater, he said.

A stream will restrict construction but also creates an opportunity to “talk more about art and nature and stormwater,” Mayer said. There’s also a pedestrian path that will be preserved, he said.

“We’ll work with the site, which will be an interesting opportunity to do some new kinds of programs,” he said.

Community meeting

The Jones Ferry Road site most recently was considered for the InterFaith Council for Social Services’ new FoodFirst community kitchen and pantry. That plan ran into concerns about traffic, noise and other potential effects on nearby homes and apartments.

IFC officials eventually settled on replacing the 110 W. Main St. pantry and offices with a new building, which is under construction.

Mayer said the proposed ArtsCenter project is being developed in partnership with the Raleigh-based Clearscapes design firm. Public feedback will be important, he said, starting with the Nov. 13 meeting that will include ArtsCenter officials and members of the design and development team.

The next community meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Jan. 8, at The ArtsCenter, with more likely after that. Officials hope to submit a special-use permit application for the project by the end of this year and to be in the new space within three to four years, he said.

A fundraising campaign is underway, he said.

Search for a home

ArtsCenter officials and supporters have been seeking a new location for several years because the former Piggly Wiggly grocery store that has been its home for 45 years needs extensive work.

Previous plans, including a Carrboro Arts and Innovation Center proposed for a downtown public parking lot, have not panned out.

For the last year, ArtsCenter officials have negotiated with the town and Orange County to be part of the future Southern Branch Library about to go up on a parking lot at 203 S. Greensboro St. In the end, that didn’t work for the ArtsCenter, Mayer said.

The organization agreed in mediation this summer to pay the town $85,000 over three years for costs related to the 203 S. Greensboro St. development agreement and to forego asking the town for funding through June 2020, according to a settlement agreement. The town, in turn, agreed to waive up to $10,000 in development permit fees for the new ArtsCenter building.

“It just wasn’t the right project at the right time, and the right partnership at the right time,” Mayer said. “It just sort of became apparent that we needed to have our own space.”

What’s next

A community input meeting will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 13, in the OWASA Community Room, at 400 Jones Ferry Road in Carrboro. The meeting will include a site tour across the street at 303 Jones Ferry Road from 5:30 to 6 p.m.

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Tammy Grubb has written about Orange County’s politics, people and government since 2010. She is a UNC-Chapel Hill alumna and has lived and worked in the Triangle for over 25 years.
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