Fundraising and Construction for New Performing Arts Center in Richmond Are Behind Schedule

Classic Arts News   Fundraising and Construction for New Performing Arts Center in Richmond Are Behind Schedule
The Virginia Performing Arts Foundation will not meet the fundraising deadline for its new performing arts center, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports.

The foundation also disclosed that the 2007 target opening date for the music hall is no longer feasible, although Michelle Walter, the foundation's chief operating officer, said that the delay would be measured "in months, not years."

These disclosures were made yesterday by foundation president Brad Armstrong in two letters to Richmond mayor L. Douglas Wilder. Armstrong asked for a permanent waiver of the July 1 fundraising deadline, by which the foundation was to have raised $93 million. Armstrong said in the letter that the foundation expects to have raised the money by December 31, 2006.

He also asked the mayor for his "personal involvement and support" in completing the fundraising.

By not meeting the deadline, the foundation could lose $15.8 million of $27.8 million pledged by the city in 2003. The foundation claims to have received commitments for $67.7 million out of the total construction costs for the first phase of the project.

Armstrong claimed that donors were hesitating to support the performing arts center "because of the perceived uncertainty of the city's support for this project."

According to the Times-Dispatch, Wilder read Armstrong's letter for the first time while talking on the telephone to a reporter. To the request for the deadline waiver, he said, "Good Lord, permanently?"

He was also skeptical about his "personal involvement" in the foundation's fundraising, as well as about the foundation's accounting of its progress. The foundation has included in the total money committed to the project the $15.8 million from the city that it might very well lose if the deadline is enforced.

The fallout from the delays in fundraising and construction is not limited to political jousting. The Richmond Symphony is now noncommittal about its plans to move its concerts from the suburbs to the new downtown concert hall.

David Fisk, executive director of the orchestra, said, "We have a number of options," adding, "We have established important relationships with churches where the orchestra now stages its Masterworks concerts, and we don't want to sever those relationships when the performing-arts center opens."

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