Arts Center plans moving ahead with architect selection process

Plans for an Arts Center are moving forward with the selection of an architectural firm for the project expected within the next two to three months.

An Architectural Selection Committee has sent requests for qualifications (RFQs) for the project to 19 architectural firms. The RFQs must be returned to the committee by Nov. 8, and at that point the committee will begin narrowing down the list to no more than eight firms. Then, in conjunction with the Board of Trustee's Real Estate, Buildings and Grounds Committee, the Architectural Selection Committee will narrow the list down to approximately four, from which the final architect will be chosen.

Other Trustee actions also have helped keep the Arts Center project moving forward. Recently, the Real Estate, Buildings and Grounds Committee and the Finance Committee jointly approved funding for schematic drawings for the project. On Oct. 10, the Trustees' Executive Committee also approved funding for the drawings, in addition to approving a list of nine general contractors from which the final Arts Center contractor will be chosen.

Rosemary Magee, associate dean of Emory College and chair of the Arts Center Committee, said she is pleased with the progress the new Arts Center initiative has made since last fall, when she and other committee members presented results of a project feasibility study to the Program and Budget Committee.

Last spring the Arts Center committee presented its proposal to the University Senate. That proposal includes: constructing a 60,000-square-foot, $25-million to $27-million facility near the corner of Clifton and North Decatur roads that will include a concert hall, theater and classrooms; adaptive reuse of the Performing Arts Studio/ Burlington Road Building (former Emory Baptist Church) and portions of the Rich Building (which will be vacated by the Goizueta Business School next year); and developing an arts commons on the site of the existing Annex B to serve as an outdoor performance space and as a gathering space for the arts programs.

Secretary of the University Gary Hauk said the trustees have expressed initial support for the new Arts Center proposal. "I think the trustees find the arts campus concept embodied in the Arts Center Committee's proposal appealing," said Hauk. "The trustees have also praised the fine work of the Arts Centers Committee."

No unit of the University will feel a more dramatic impact from the creation of a new arts campus than Emory College, which houses the music, theater, film and dance programs. The College has struggled for some years to provide adequate performance and classroom space for the arts programs on an increasingly crowded campus.

"Because of the recognized need for a physical presence for the arts on campus, we have been able to keep the idea for a Center for the Performing Arts alive," said Music Department Chair Ben Arnold, a member of the Arts Center Committee. "We have changed our focus, however, from the old monolithic design that was too costly to build, to an exciting new approach of the village concept, combining existing buildings with a new and smaller Arts Center. In a short time, this new idea has gained such support that we are now moving to select an architect."

--Dan Treadaway

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