The expansion project at the Martin Lipscomb Performing Arts Center in Highlands has been scaled down to something equally exciting but with a decreased price tag.
“After working very hard on an outstanding design, in the end, we realized without going into debt we couldn’t afford it,” said PAC Executive Director Mary Adair Trumbly. “We will not go into debt, so, we started over with JLL, they designed us a theater that we could afford to build. It is smaller but a very cool design and will accomplish everything we want in our theater.”
The PAC Board of Directors and its Building Committee engaged Jones, Lang, Lasalle Americas, Inc. (“JLL”), a top construction project management company. JLL recommended two Atlanta firms: Choate Construction Company and Lord, Aeck, Sargent, an architecture and design firm.
After the PAC Building Committee began weekly meetings with JLL, Choate, and Lord Aeck Sargent redesigned and re-engineered PAC expansion was realized.
Trumbly said the Board has approved an initial agreement with these entities and the project has begun the value engineering and complex architectural design work.
Initial construction will begin in June 2021 and is expected to be completed in time for the summer season of 2022.
The original plans called for two theaters, a 400-seat theater and an 85-seat movie and black-box theater. The new plans include one 300-seat theater and the spiral staircase and balcony have been eliminated.
“We developed a new, and I think better concept, with a reduced size,” said Building Committee member Wade Coleman. “We did this because of budgetary restraints and right now we have money in hand and time commitments to maintain,” he said.
Trumbly said though the theater was hit financially because of the pandemic, the expansion is still possible through the generosity of the community.
According to Asst. Planning Director Michael Mathis, since the plans and how the proposed structure will sit on the property has changed, PAC will have to resubmit its plans to the town.
Though no problems are anticipated, under the terms of Conditional Use Zoning, under which the PAC falls, the new plan must be presented to the town and the zoning terms amended.
Trumbly said Covid-19 did have an impact on the organization as far as presenting shows is concerned, but not significantly.
However, not knowing where the country is headed pandemic-wise and “with people not wanting to gather in such large groups, a smaller theater made sense,” she said.
“We are fine as far as funding goes; we are actually at the pre-Covid-19 funding level,” she said. “Our sponsors and supporters have been amazing and without them there’s no way we could do this. We’re a performing arts center and people want to come here to be entertained. The arts are a main fiber of society and we’re going to give it to them.”
Meanwhile, the show goes on at PAC.
Currently, under COVID-19 safety measures, the PAC has a maximum capacity of 25 people with chairs and tables set up in a socially distant manner. Shows include live satellite broadcasts from the MET Opera and London Theater.
The PAC also hosts a “drive-up” outdoor movie theater — Parkin’ at the PAC — each week from Thurs.-Sat., at 7:30 p.m.
For more information or to donate to the Performing Arts Center, call Trumbly at 828.526.9047.
Pictured at the top of the article is what the rear of the PAC is expected to look like. Submitted photos