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Charlotte Arts Master Plan

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Drawings show a dream for art

ASC tells City Council about museum, but doesn't seek funding yet

RICHARD RUBIN

Staff Writer

Charlotte arts leaders showed off snazzy new drawings of the proposed Bechtler Art Museum on Monday. They bragged about the magnificent modern-art collection the city could gain. They crowed about finding a way to preserve much of the old Carolina Theatre.

They did everything -- except actually ask the Charlotte City Council to pay for the project.

That potential request remains locked in the Arts & Science Council's implementation process. The ASC's leaders need to decide where the museum falls in its list of priorities, which include projects such as a renovated Discovery Place.

"There's a lot of different wheels turning, and you can't put all that together overnight," said Mark Bernstein, co-chair of the task force that developed the ASC's $236 million master plan for the five-to-seven year first phase.

Bernstein said ASC officials are still testing the interest of potential private donors. The council, which has asked for a ranked list of priorities, will have to wait until May 3.

The architectural drawings unveiled Monday night present a glassed-in showpiece for the corner of Sixth and Tryon streets. The museum would house the collection that Andreas Bechtler has said he would donate. It has recently been appraised at more than $20 million.

The building itself would cost about $20 million.

The museum would connect to the long-vacant Carolina Theatre, which would lose its balcony but retain its orchestra seating.

The council faces the tricky task of fitting the arts projects into a tight budget. Already, city staffers are floating ideas that would let the council choose between building cultural facilities and roads. Furthermore, on Monday, City Manager Pam Syfert said she is considering asking the council to scale back its five-year construction program and use the money to avoid cuts to the operating budget.

Mayor Pat McCrory said he wanted to put the ASC plans in the context of the whole budget.

"I'm not prepared to respond until I can see their priorities," he said.

Some council members had expected to get ASC's priority list on Monday, and when Syfert told them at a lunch meeting that it would not happen until May, they were not pleased.

Democratic council member Patsy Kinsey said she was tired of hearing updates and not action.

"If I walk out, please forgive me," said Kinsey, who indeed missed a chunk of the evening presentation.

Elizabeth Ave. Plan

Charlotte will subsidize a $220 million redevelopment of Elizabeth Avenue, kick-starting the transformation of an older corridor into an urban retail center. The city will use the increased property taxes generated by the development to help build parking decks.

On Monday, the City Council voted 10-0 to approve the deal, which has several safeguards designed to shield Charlotte from risk. For example, the city won't start paying until developers spend $25 million and create enough new property taxes to cover the city's costs.

Developer Clay Grubb plans to build apartments, stores and a movie theater between Central Piedmont Community College and Presbyterian Hospital.

Mecklenburg County commissioners are scheduled to consider the deal soon.

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This has always amazed me that for a city the size of Charlotte we have almost nothing in the way of museums. I'd kill for a great aquarium and museum downtown. And by museum I don't mean the type that stays static for years on end, I mean one like the Field Museum in Chicago that regularly attracts different things so there is always something new to see.

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I think that the Mint Museum is a very good museum. I only wish is was uptown. I would love to see uptown Charlotte get an aquarium or a Ripleys or other attractions for tourists to visit. As it is, there isn't even a theater in the uptown area. There is so much potential. Even a NASCAR museum would be great. I hope that the art museum doesn't die away.

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I'm sure a NASCAR Museum with a Cafe' is on the radar for uptown Charlotte. They'd be crazy if they dont do that. The NASCAR Museum could also have a gokart NASCAR track for the children. I think I heard that they want to move the Mint Museum to uptown Charlotte. Charlotte would be perfect for an aqaurium because its centrally located in the Carolinas and not every one wants to drive all the way to a coastal aqaurium. I think Charlotte has enough tourist drawing power for an aqaurium.

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Let's not make it sound like the Mint Museum is on the outskirts of town here. It's just outside of Uptown. It also has the Mint Museum of Craft and Design and Spirit Square, with the Light Factory, right on Tryon in Uptown.

Not to mention the fact that almost every modern skyscraper in Uptown features art in their ground-level lobbies, from Hearst to BofA to IJL to Carillon, and so on.

and that's just talking about arts and crafts. Uptown also has blumenthal, with its theaters, and Spirit Square has a theater as well.

So there are cultural centers in Uptown, but more are always welcome, and I'd love to see this one get built...and move the Mint Museum too. ;)

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Nostyle, I really like downtown Charlotte. I think Blumenthau and other places are great. But, like others, I want more and more. If you could bring the beach a little closer, I would move back despite my wonderful lifestyle here in the sunshine state.

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No argument there. But I was commenting with regards to Neo's comment that 'a city the size of charlotte' should have more museums and whatnot, and I think that Charlotte is generally right on par in this category. It's not the mecca of museums by any means, but it has about what you'd expect for a city its size. And this article is just further evidence that it will continue to grow in this regard.

I'll also say this. I'm not originally from here, and one of the first things I noticed that you'd expect a city Charlotte's size to have is a zoo. No zoo? I found that odd. They'd all say 'oh, go to the Asheboro zoo', but that's not Charlotte's zoo!

I later found out that there were actually discussions about building a zoo, but that city leaders felt it would be inhumane, or something to that effect. So at least I got somewhat of an explanation. But typically, a city the size of Charlotte should have a zoo.

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I would be happier of Charlotte had things like Myrtle Beach has, like the aquarium, Ripley's Believe It or Not museum, etc. Also, regarding the zoo. There were plans at one time to have the zoo and it was going to be built in north Charlotte on both sides of highway 29. It's now tobacco fields and Phillip Morris (I think that's who it is) has their place on it.

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Plus the NC Zoo in Asheboro is one of the best in the nation...I think it would be hard to fund raise for a Zoo in Charlotte when there are good ones 90 minutes away in Columbia and Asheboro.

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I've heard about that free standing tower...would have definately been awesome! I wish someone would put an observation deck in one of the buildings downtown, that's just a personal wish though, LOL!

The zoo was to be located in Cabarrus County, not Mecklenburg and outside of the "North Tryon" district. The location is about halfway between the Mecklenburg/Cabarrus county line and downtown Concord. Hwy 29 would have divided the zoo.

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You guys should really check out the ASC's new plan on thier website. A few of the new facilities would be 2 new large theatre's uptown. Relocation of the Mint museum of art (building and everything) to uptown. The Betchler Museum of Modern Art, a revamp of Discovery Place, a Traditional Music Hall of Fame, an Arts, Science, and Technology museum (reffered to as the Auto Museum), a project called Greastest Places (truley abitious, it recreates several of the worlds eco-systems inside a massive building). a Carolina Aviation Museum uptown, and more. Is you haven't seen it already you really should. The Betchler Museum is just the start.

Oh yeah, there is a brochure in the visitors center in Uptown for a zoo near Charlotte. It's really just a crazy farmer with some exotic animals that lives out in the metro, but if you really need to see some wild animals you could always cruise over and check it out.

The ASC's website is www.artsandscience.org and don't forget about the Levine Museum of the New South, that museum rocks.

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Although this isn't uptown, there are plans for that Enviromental Museum in York County near Lake Wylie. They want to build an eco-friendly sustainable community down there and use the profits to build the museum. Hugh McColl's wife is spear-heading this. Sorry about all of the typos above also.

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Big banks put up $16 million for arts

'Watershed event for the city'

STEVEN BROWN

Staff Writer

Charlotte's two big banks intensified the sales pitch for cultural facilities Monday by pledging $8 million each toward the arts package being promoted by the Arts & Science Council.

Those are the largest amounts that Bank of America or Wachovia Corp. has given for any philanthropic campaign, cultural or otherwise, their CEOs said at a joint announcement.

Accomplishing the eight projects in the ASC's $190 million package "would be a watershed event for the city," Bank of America's Ken Lewis said.

"These large commitments show that we mean that," he added. "We're putting our money where our mouth is."

They want the Charlotte City Council to hear. The ASC has asked the city to give $88 million. With the city budget already squeezed, the only scenario its staff has presented for the full amount would require raising taxes -- something many council members are loath to do.

Asked if the banks' donations, along with a $2 million Duke Energy gift announced last week, were meant for persuasion, Lewis said: "That would be my intention."

Lewis, Wachovia CEO Ken Thompson and Duke CEO Paul Anderson are co-chairing a drive to raise $52.5 million from businesses and individuals. Gifts on top of that include money already raised on some projects and $20 million worth of art from Charlotte collector Andreas Bechtler.

The ASC's eight projects include the creation of a new museum for Bechtler's art; the renovation of Discovery Place; the expansion of the Afro-American Cultural Center; and the building of a 1,200-seat theater in an office tower proposed by Wachovia.

"We've got one chance to put these all together to ... help the city take a quantum leap forward," Thompson said.

He and Lewis both said they'll make personal donations to the drive in addition to their companies' gifts, though they wouldn't cite amounts. As leaders of the campaign, they'll also make calls on potential givers. But that will only proceed if the city does its part, they said.

"We realize that the city's leadership faces financial pressures in providing the city with basic services," Thompson said. "But ... great cities balance critical infrastructure with quality-of-life initiatives."

Under the ASC's plan, the city's $88 million and $14 million from Mecklenburg County would pay for construction, while the ASC's $88 million of cash and other gifts would go for endowment funds to support the facilities' operations and for art.

Some City Council members think that formula asks too much.

"I'd be willing to step up to that $16 million" from the banks, said council member John Tabor, a Republican. "I'd match that in a heartbeat." But he thinks the city should only pay half the construction costs, "as we've done for the past 25 years."

Council member Warren Turner, a Democrat, concurred.

"If they want us to support the arts, they need to give us a more realistic request," Turner said.

The projects would affect more than culture. Wachovia's proposed tower would include not only the theater, but space for Wake Forest University's graduate school of business to move its Charlotte branch from SouthPark to uptown. Thompson wouldn't predict whether the tower will go up if the arts plan stalls.

Supporting the ASC project is in the two banks' "enlightened self-interest," Lewis said.

As banks with national profiles, "we need the city to be vibrant in all its areas," he continued. Because both banks recruit employees nationwide, a thriving arts scene would help them attract and keep top-notch workers.

The two CEOs said that's why these donations are the largest the banks have ever given.

"Second place is a distant second," Lewis said.

Bank of America gave $3 million when the ASC ran a $27 million campaign for an arts endowment in the mid-1990s, said Michael Marsicano, president of the Foundation for the Carolinas. Wachovia's two corporate ancestors, First Union and Wachovia, gave a total of $1.4 million.

The fact that the three CEOs are leading the campaign together is record-setting in itself, Marsicano said.

"I would challenge you," he said, "to find any city in the world where three CEOs of Fortune 100 companies would share any civic effort." -- STAFF WRITERS MICHELLE CROUCH AND RICK ROTHACKER CONTRIBUTED.

-- STEVEN BROWN: (704) 358-6194; [email protected] WACHOVIA | The nation's No. 4 bank pledged $8 million, its biggest gift ever. CEO Ken Thompson, BofA's Ken Lewis and Duke's Paul Anderson lead the drive. BANK OF AMERICA | The No. 2 bank by assets will also give $8 million, also a record and a nice chunk of the $52.5 million ASC seeks in private donations. DUKE | Despite its recent financial woes, CEO Paul Anderson last week said Duke Energy will give $2 million -- or $4 million if Duke does well this year.

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I'm a supporter of this project and I really hope it gets off the ground but I'm a little doubtful that it will. I think it would be a huge asset to downtown but given the financial situation at the moment I'm not so sure it will take flight. I'd personally like to know why the project would cost so much. Seems like a lot of money for these things...but I'm not in with the details so what do I know?

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Well, $16 million for both banks plus Duke Power's $2 million or possibly $4 million. That's at least $18 million. I'm still shocked at how much this would cost. Are they including the cost of the art into this or something? And why can't they break this project down into smaller projects to make it more doable? I'd really like to see the art museum get built even if the other 2 projects don't get funded. I'd hate for the Wachovia tower to not get built because this project didn't go through though. I'm a little bewildered that it would even be a player in whether the tower got built or not. I figured Wachovia would pony up in donating the theater since it would be located inside of their building.

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The polls are currently at 45% against and 55% for it, which is pretty evenly distributed. This quote comes from "bluemike1" on the charlotte.com forums:

"Personally I think this City needs to do a lot MORE to promote Arts and entertainment. I've had many friends form other locations who ask what there is to do in Charlotte. The list is short frankly."

I think he hits the nail on the head. I've been asked the same exact question many times and to be honest I'm starving for things to tell them in comparison with other cities.

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I would think a $190M project would not raise taxes that much, considering the annual budget is over $1 Billion...it is rather confusing to me why the City would pay for this out of the General Fund. This would be something they could fund by raising the Rental Car tax to the same rate it is in Greensboro and Raleigh.

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Here is an article on this that I missed on News 14 Charlotte's website.

CHARLOTTE, N.C.

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Also, is it true that they're going to move the Mint Museum of Art OUT of downtown? This seems like it's headed in the wrong direction.

That's inaccurate. The Mint Museum of art is currently just outside of Uptown, and there has long been discussion of moving back into Uptown (it was originally located in Uptown when it was the Charlotte branch of the Philadelphia Mint). So they worded the end of that article all wrong.

As for the proposal, I'm all for it. The revenue these projects will create will more than pay for the initial investment, much like with the whitewater park. I'm not even 'artsy' but I would love to see all this money spent on the cultural scene.

And really, let's not just throw away the $18 million that three local companies have already offered to chip in, simply because the entire project is millions more. That's still $18 million your local corporations are offering you. Charlotte should be beyond glad that it has local companies willing to give so much. Oh, and on top of that, Bechtler is offering $20 million in art for nothing. How could Charlotte possibly say no to this?

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Yes, they do count the art as part of that 190 mil. and they are considering the 20 million value of Betchler's art as part of the money raised by the private sector. So adding that in with the other 18-20 mil takes us up to 38-40 mil raised. Plus all of the CEO's including former bank heads giving possibly 6-7 figures. Also, when I worked at BofA in Charlotte we as employees were required to go though the donation page of the ASC's website even if we pledged $0.00 for the simple reason that if you had to go through the web page anyway you were probably at least going to donate 20 bucks or something. Wachovia and Duke probably do the same, we haven't seen that money yet, and of course there will be general fund raising. Charlotte always ranks #1 in private donations to the arts so I believe the private sector will make thier part happen. As for the city, who knows.

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We also have not seen the donations of many of our other corporations and companies both large and small. Who knows what companies like Goodyear and Lowes will do. Harris-Teeter, SPX (is that the name?) etc...

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