$142M Arts Center Breaks Ground

With municipal projects meant to lure tourists on the rise across the country, Charleston has joined the race.

With municipal projects meant to lure tourists on the rise across the country, Charleston has joined the race. The Charlotte Observer recently reported on the groundbreaking of the city’s ambitious $142 million performing arts center renovation and expansion project.

Located at 77 Calhoun St., the Gaillard Municipal Auditorium, a 44-year multipurpose facility, has long been an important part of Charleston, a city with a vibrant arts infrastructure. Until recently, it featured a theater complete with a full stage and orchestra pit and seating for 2,726 people, according to the city’s official website. It also included a 15,000-square-foot exhibition hall capable of holding 800 seated, as well as 50-100 person meeting rooms.

However, Gaillard has for some time been considered outdated both architecturally—compared to the surrounding neighborhood—as well as economically. After two years of planning, lining up funding and getting approval, work has finally started at the site with necessary demolition work.

The formerly 2,726-seat performance hall will be downsized to 1,800—making it more economically sound. The new design will improve acoustics as well as energy efficiency and will cost $96 million.

The outdated, underused and inflexible exhibition hall will be replaced by a larger one, better suited for current markets at a price of $23 million. According to the development’s website, the exhibition hall will be flexible, energy-efficient and larger. It is to have improved food, loading and unloading facilities, as well as upgraded restrooms.

A novelty at the site will be the city offices, as the municipal offices currently dispersed in leased spaces across Charleston will consolidate—saving money and time and improving service efficiency. Developing will have a price tag of $23 million.

$71 million in private contributions will be matched by $71 million in city contributions to cover the project’s costs.  Of public funds, $30 million will be covered by tax increment financing, $23 million by general obligation bonds and $18 million will come from hospitality and new market tax credits.

Design is signed by David M Schwarz Architects. Construction, expected to generate 1000 construction-related jobs, is expected to wrap up by December 2014. The new center will generate 400 permanent jobs and have an annual economic impact of $62 million.

Photo credit: City of Charleston’s Facebook page