Council studies whether to build performing arts center in downtown Rock Hill

dworthington@heraldonline.comFebruary 6, 2014 

Students at the School of Ballet practice a sous-sus at the Community Performance Center in downtown Rock Hill.

ANDY BURRISS — aburriss@heraldonline.com

The Arts Council of York County is studying whether a performing arts center with up to 800 seats should be built in downtown Rock Hill.

Four potential consultants have submitted proposals for studying the issue. The four are Webb Management Services of New York City, Winslow & Associates of San Francisco, Patton McDowell & Associates of Charlotte, and the team of Judith Allen and Morenga Hunt, an adjunct professor at Winthrop.

Interviews with the finalists are scheduled for Feb. 19, said Matt Dosch, vice president for external affairs for Comporium Communications Co., chairman of the Performing Arts Center Advisory Group, and a member of the arts council.

A new downtown arts center has been part of Comporium’s Downtown East vision for several years. Comporium and the city launched the first phase of the “Downtown East” project last year when construction started for the Fountain Park Place office building and Fountain Park. The office building is expected to be finished by the end of this summer and the park by the end of the year.

As proposed, the study would be done in several phases: an inventory of the existing facilities; the needs of the arts community and possible future demands for space; the financial feasibility of the project; and operations and ownership of a possible arts center.

Dosch said the entire study could cost up to $65,000. He said the arts council is seeking private funding to hire a consultant.

A preliminary projection for a new downtown arts center calls for a $12 million facility with seating of 300 to 800. It would be located just south of Fountain Park, across Elizabeth Lane from Comporium’s headquarters.

The arts council currently operates the 150-seat Community Performance Center on Main Street. Dosch and other members of the arts council have been visiting other performing arts centers in the Carolinas to understand what’s involved in designing and operating a larger center.

Mary Lynn Norton, artistic director and facilities manager for the performance center, said use of the current facility shows the need for a larger one. Currently, the York County Ballet and the Rock Hill Community Theater call the center home.

According to the request for proposals, more than 15,000 individuals pass through the performance center each year for various events, rehearsals, performances, classes and receptions. The last three shows of the 2012-2013 Main Stage season were completely sold out.

Dosch discussed the proposed study at Thursday’s meeting of the Knowledge Park Leadership Group. The group of business leaders is committed to redeveloping the area between Winthrop University and downtown into a high-tech business park.

The city has hired Sora Development of Maryland and Hensel Phelps, a general contractor based in Colorado, to guide the development of the Knowledge Park. Sora officials are expected to present a master plan for the redevelopment of the former Rock Hill Printing & Finishing Co. site – commonly called the Bleachery – at the Rock Hill City Council work session scheduled for Feb. 13 at noon.

Don Worthington •  803-329-4066

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