Mayor Suggests Cutting Back Richmond Performing Arts Center

Classic Arts News   Mayor Suggests Cutting Back Richmond Performing Arts Center
L. Douglas Wilder, mayor of Richmond, Virginia, has proposed a radically scaled-down version of the city's performing arts center, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports.

He proposed that instead of building a new performing arts center around the existing Carpenter Center, the original building should simply be renovated.

The mayor and the Virginia Performing Arts Foundation have been at odds since at least April, when the foundation announced it would not meet its fundraising deadline.

The mayor is concerned about the foundation's ability to raise the money for the $112 million center, and about possible misuse of the $7.6 million that the city has provided for it. His current proposal would eliminate the new concert hall, theater, and jazz club from the project's design.

"Right now, I'm afraid if we don't do something," Wilder said, "we'll end up with nothing. And 2007 is right around the corner. Do we want this mess when we're trying to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Virginia?"

The Carpenter-only solution is one that, in fact, the foundation presented last January as a worst-case scenario for the project. Wilder, who thinks that the city simply needs a venue for events, believes that the Carpenter would be sufficient.

"This whole thing originated with the need for a renovation of the Carpenter Center," he said. "We got away from it.... We shouldn't have lost sight of the original idea."

Work on the center halted last week, when the city issued a stop-order due to lapsed demolition permits.

Brad Armstrong, president of the foundation, said that although renovation of the Carpenter Center is the project's first priority, the rest of the venues are too important to eliminate. He added that there has been no misuse of funds.

Armstrong also said that the planned September 2007 opening date was no longer realistic, and suggested that it was the impasse with the city that has hurt the deadline. "I think it's more realistic to look at the end of 2007," he said.

Wilder also said that he did not plan to release any more funds to the project.

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