Construction crews break ground for renovations at PAC complex

Excitement was in the air last week at the groundbreaking ceremony kicking off the construction for phase two of renovations at the Martin Lipscomb Performing Arts Center. Phase two entails building a new theater, phase one was the installment of a new parking lot on Laurel Street.

PAC Executive Director Mary Adair Trumbly said working with project management JLL and Choate Construction out of Atlanta has been a team concept since planning began over a year ago. She said the groundbreaking for a new theater is both exciting and gratifying.

Mary Adair Trumbly addresses the crowd at the groundbreaking ceremony last week and thanked Choate Construction for taking on the project.

“This ‘dream’ came about after Mayor Pat Taylor wrote about having all the performing arts under one roof,” said Trumbly. “This was right before the PAC had a Board retreat, August 2015. It was at that retreat that the Board decided we needed a bigger theater because all of our concerts were sold out with waiting lists.”

Initial plans called for two new theaters, a 400-seat theater and an 85-seat movie and black-box theater. However, plans had to be scaled back as a result of the pandemic and new plans include one 300-seat theater. Also eliminated from the initial plans are a spiral staircase and balcony.

“We raised the needed funds, had a design we could afford to build, and then the pandemic hit,” said Trumbly. “Now with the world-wide price increases, we will have to raise more funds. We will accomplish this.”

The new part of the building will connect and extend west from the current structure.

The PAC Executive Board released a statement on Tuesday that reads “Our construction contract has a maximum guaranteed cost of $9.4 million, though we are anticipating some further cost savings, and our total project cost, which includes design, engineering, furnishings, technical equipment, expanded and enhanced parking, and related expenses, is $11 million. Given the significant inflation that has taken place in the construction industry during the last year, we are extremely pleased to be able to build a first-class facility for the community at this cost. We are, however, continuing to seek important financial support from the community which is needed to bridge the gap between our original budget and the total project cost.”

Choate Superintendent Russell Hartness said the goal is to finish construction on the new theater by the summer of 2022 and he’s excited to get started.

“The project team looks forward to forging new relationships and completing a successful project that is positive for the community,” said Hartness.

Over the next month or so, construction crews will be focused on underground utilities, earthwork, and stone piers.

Hartness said potential snags in the timeline include variables such as weather, procurement, or an unpredictable supply chain.

Choate Construction crews are in the process of building a new theater at the Performing Arts Center. Pictured above from left are Jesse Pollard, Chris Caldwell, Tony Burns, Blake Head, Andy Pace, and Shayne Taylor.

Adair said all the planning involved in the renovations was a team effort.

“The whole team approach of JLL has been wonderful,” said Trumbly. “We met every other week for over a year.  Everyone was in the meeting(s), JLL (project management) Choate (construction) LAS (architects) the design and theatrical teams, along with the PAC Building Committee. Everyone heard all concerns and worked to find solutions. Choate has been on site for 9 days now and the amount of work already done is amazing. Russell Hartness, Project Superintendent and Omid Yavari, Project Manager could not be any nicer or more accommodating. It’s pleasure to work with them.”

She added that she would also like to thank the PAC’s Building Committee, which includes Wade Coleman, Chairman, Jim Ward, Brad Armstrong, Rick Trevathan, Leonard Wood, Nancy Harrison, and Frank Oliver.

Lastly, she thanked the PAC Board of Directors (past and present) for their tireless work on making this dream become a reality.

From left are Jeanne Mullin, Highlands Playhouse Board; Craig Eister, Highlands Cashiers Players Board; Brad Armstrong, Building Committee; Charlotte Muir, PAC Board; Mary Adair Trumbly, PAC Executive Director; Martha Pearson, Highlands Cashiers Chamber Music Festival Board; Jane Webb, PAC Board; Rick Trevathan, PAC Board; Geri Coleman, PAC Board; Wade Coleman, Building Committee Chair; John Eastman, PAC Board. Also pictured at the top of the article.

Article and photos by Brian O’Shea
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