PAC Seeks Support

The Virginia Performing Arts Foundation, a non-profit group that is spearheading efforts to build a new performance hall in Richmond, Va., has run into some speed bumps, including an unsupportive mayor and recent work stoppage.

The foundation has raised $70 million from the private sector to build and operate the Virginia Performing Arts Center, a project that the organization hopes will revitalize the downtown area. The existing stage house at the Carpenter Center would be demolished and the larger PAC (including a 2,000-seat stage house) would encompass the area.

The project has drawn criticism from some in the community, including former Carpenter Center Executive Director Joel Katz, who believes the foundation isn’t forthcoming about its finances or its ability to complete the project after the demolition.

Mayor L. Douglas Wilder has been especially critical, balking at the rising cost estimate that originally came in at $80 million but is now up to $112 million, according to the Richmond Times Dispatch.

The city has chipped in more than $7 million for the project and was expected to give an equivalent amount through a city meals tax, but the mayor said the rising estimate makes the agreement null and void.

“Eight million for architects! Four million for operating expenses!” Wilder told the Dispatch. “They’re spending all this money, and all we have is a damn hole in the ground on Broad Street.”

The $112 million figure is the highest estimate for construction costs, foundation spokeswoman Carolyn Cuthrell told Pollstar. The organization is still waiting on the guaranteed bid, which will be presented to board members September 13th.

The project received a stop-work order recently, reportedly because contractors neglected to ask for inspections required by the state’s building code.

The foundation met with Richmond’s building commissioner August 15th, submitted the necessary paperwork and wrote a $142,000 check for the building permit, Cuthrell said.