Lumberyard board to ask architect to tweak plans for theater
The Lumberyard Arts Center Board of Directors expects to engage an architect this spring to develop plans for the long-planned theater as part of a renewed effort to complete the downtown building.
As the arts center board readies to make that move, the Baldwin City Council has approached the board about partnering in the theater project.
The rear 3,575-square-foot section of the 7,500-square-foot Lumberyard has been portioned off since the renovated front half was finished and opened in 2010. The plan has always been to renovate the back part as the Swan Theater.
Tony Brown, Lumberyard Arts Center board president, said the city required the board to have architectural plans for the theater section on paper before it would approve a construction permit for the Lumberyard’s now renovated section. Those plans have been on display at the arts center the past four years.
With a renewed commitment to complete the theater, the board has agreed to tweak and further develop those plans, Brown said. The proposed changes would help make the theater a more flexible space for community events.
“The changes would made it more a multiple-use space than a traditional theater,” Brown said. “Quite frankly, they would make the space more valuable to the Lumberyard and the community.”
Lumberyard board member Sandy Cardens said the changes would retain the two dressing rooms and bathroom included in the original plans. The new concept calls for a sectional, portable stage and retractable seating to allow greater use of the space, she said.
“We could move the stage to the middle of the room if we wanted,” she said.
Despite the proposed changes, the board remained committed to providing a quality space for theatrical and musical performances, Brown said.
“We want to provide something a professional musician would see and say, ‘I can work with that,’” he said. “We want to have a quality venue where the community can enjoy plays, musicals, concerts and lectures.”
That ambition will cost money, with the board working with a ballpark figure of $500,000 to complete the renovations with such theater-specific elements as lighting and acoustics, Brown said.
The board’s goal was to have the new concept ready for an architect this spring, Brown said. The architect would probably be Paul Warner Architects of Lawrence, who drew the plans for the Lumberyard’s initial renovation.
Brown said the Baldwin City Council has approached the Lumberyard board about a partnership meant to get the theater completed. The board has made no commitment about any possible partnership but would continue to meet with council representatives, he said.
In a Feb. 3 report to fellow council members, the Baldwin City Council members on the council’s community development committee, Shane Sharkey, Christi Darnell and Kathy Grestner, praised the Lumberyard board’s interest in making the theater space more flexible.
The council was interested in getting the theater completed because of its economic development potential, the council members said. Events there, including plays concerts, family reunions and wedding receptions,would draw people downtown, where they would spend money at other shops and restaurants, they said.
A possible means of the city’s financial contribution could be a public building commission, such as that used to finance the city pool. City Administrator Chris Lowe said that would allow issuing city-backed general obligation bonds for th theater’s improvement with no consequence to the city’s overall debt limit. But he said that was just one option being explored in early discussions of a possible partnership with the Lumberyard board.
Council members on the community development committee and the Lumberyard board will met Feb. 26 to further explore a possible partnership.