The city’s new downtown performance space is officially on Third Street, south of City Hall, with the fate of Arnold Hall still uncertain.
The council voted unanimously Nov. 21 to make that the alternate site, a switch made after it couldn’t agree on the price for its first choice on Market Street.
Architects gave the council a brief report confirming the site will work for the performance space.
Councilman Rob Binney, Arts Council liaison, read a letter from that board to the City Council asking it to renovate Arnold Hall and expressing willingness to work with the city on design, planning, and for finances of operating that facility and the outdoor performance space.
Arts Council Chair Syrtiller Kabat said she pleased with the council’s action.
“We at have a definite site, now we can begin work on a plan for performance space and Arnold Hall,” she said.
She said although the building has been gutted, that actually works in its favor because there is opportunity to install movable walls that would make it a versatile space.
Architects Chris Heinz and Brian Roth with Hollis+Miller told the City Council the site was suitable for the performance space.
They said the site had plenty of room to accommodate a crowd of 450 people for an outdoor concert, while keeping the Arnold Hall building intact. They showed several different drawings of how the stage could be oriented on that spot.
The first proposed site on Market Street was about 32,000 to 33,000 square feet, while the 123 SW Third Street site is 34,000 square feet, with Arnold Hall taking up about 6,000 square feet.
Arnold Hall could be a backdrop for a stage, or the stage could be located on the Third Street side as a gateway, or the rear, architects said. Architects also said that the location of utilities and adjacent buildings would not interfere with developing the site, regardless of whether it’s paved or turf.
Mayor Randy Rhoads said he thinks someone needs to look closely at the timing, because there is an expectation to get the project underway. The plan has been to finish design work this winter to begin construction in spring or summer of 2014.
The council spent a few minutes discussing whether it will need to adjust the contract with Hollis+Miller, since the new plan may include more work. City Manager Steve Arbo said he would be negotiating that issue with the firm and come back to the council with a proposal.
Council member Allan Gray, backpedaling from suggestions that Arnold Hall be torn down, said he assumed the city would renovate the building. The council’s consensus stopped short of that, with members wanting to see more information on the Art Council’s recommendations.
“Why don’t we let the Arts Council wrestle with this a little longer,” Council member Ed Cockrell said.