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Action Greensboro prepares for 2nd phase in downtown revitalization

Study looks at arts center options


By Dawn DeCwikiel-Kane Staff Writer

News & Record

GREENSBORO -- As Action Greensboro and local arts groups explore their vision for a new performing arts center or concert hall, answering one question will be crucial: Will donors be willing to help pay for it?

To find out, the New York consulting firm conducting a center feasibility study will interview up to 40 selected arts donors, Action Greensboro executive director Susan Schwartz said Monday. The consultants won't seek donations, just advice and potential interest.

Donors to be interviewed were recommended by the feasibility study steering committee, which includes representatives from Action Greensboro, local foundations and arts groups.

That feedback will be part of the study that ARTEC Consultants Inc. expects to finish by late spring.

"(The performing arts center/concert hall) would be a very expensive undertaking, and would require a great deal of private money," Schwartz said.

At issue: Should Greensboro build a new performing arts center or a concert hall, renovate an existing facility, or none of the above?

And should any new facility be built downtown, or next to the UNCG School of Music, whose leaders also have expressed interest in a concert hall?

A new performing arts center could cost $35 million to $45 million, according to a 2001 downtown Greensboro master plan commissioned by the nonprofit Action Greensboro. After receiving that plan, Action Greensboro hired ARTEC to examine the feasibility of building one.

"We have encouraged ARTEC to look at less expensive (alternatives), rather than more expensive," Schwartz said.

Some cities have used both private and public funds for such projects, and Greensboro could explore that as well, Schwartz added.

On Monday, ARTEC gave Schwartz and the feasibility study steering committee a progress report on its work.

Consultants have interviewed local performing arts groups on their types of performances, schedules, audience sizes and needs, such as space for rehearsals and storage. They have studied existing venues including War Memorial Auditorium, the Carolina Theatre and Dana Auditorium at Guilford College.

The Greensboro Symphony Orchestra, for example, now performs at the 2,400-seat War Memorial Auditorium in the Greensboro Coliseum Complex.

Although the orchestra appreciates the auditorium, "we could really use a facility more specifically designed acoustically for orchestral performances" and in the 1,500-seat range, symphony board member Bob Klepfer said.

Action Greensboro has budgeted $200,000 for the feasibility study and a performing arts center design.

But that doesn't mean Action Greensboro would conduct a fund-raising campaign to build a new venue, Schwartz said.

If the study recommends a new venue, "We also would look for a champion to lead this effort," Schwartz said. "We are just trying to give the community some information and tools it needs to make big decisions."

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