Asheville City Council reserves site for proposed performing-arts center

While Stewart Coleman‘s controversial Parkside condominium project remains in flux pending a court decision, City Council on Aug. 26 took action on another piece of property behind Coleman’s that could one day become the site for a mixed-use development, the centerpiece of which would be a long-sought state-of-the-art performing-arts center.

In a 5-1 vote, Council agreed to a request from the Asheville Area Center for the Performing Arts that the city set aside a 2.3-acre city-owned parcel for future construction of the project, with the understanding that construction of the site take place within the next five years. Council member Carl Mumpower lauded the idea of such a center, but voted against it out of fear that it could become a drain on taxpayers. (Council member Robin Cape was absent, representing the city on a Sister Cities trip in Nigeria.)

The Center’s executive director, James Baudoin, told Council, “Our vision is to create an amazing landmark.” However, at this stage, there are no renderings of what such a project might look like, though Baudoin said it could have mixtures of commercial uses in addition to the performing-arts center. Showing slides of PAC’s in other cities, Baudoin said the center would be both a daytime and nighttime destination, featuring not only music, plays, ballets and other productions, but also serving as a center of instruction and enrichment for school children.

Council’s action reserves property south of Parkside and bordered by Spruce Street to the west, Eagle Street to the south and South Charlotte Street to the east. All pertinent details will be included in a forthcoming joint development agreement between the city and the AACPA.

The nonprofit organization has raised $5 million in private donations, but it needed to secure a site in order to maintain fundraising adequate enough to build the center, Baudoin said. “Now is the time to approve the site,” he urged.

Though the AACPA looked at a total of 15 sites, “At the end of the day, the standout location was … the Parkside site,” Baudoin said. “We believe now is the time to approve this site in order to keep the momentum going.”

Organizers haven’t pegged a cost for the site, which is more of a vision at this point, with the fine-tuning to come later. However, past estimates have put the cost as high as $85 million.

— Hal L. Millard, staff writer

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