Arts complex one of many projects

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April 24, 2009

4:00 AM

Plans to build a $355 million performance and fine arts complex on the present site of Phi Beta Kappa Hall and surrounding buildings were discussed at the Board of Visitors’ Committee on Buildings and Grounds meeting last Thursday.

The planned construction is on a scale unprecedented in the College’s history, according to Vice President of Administration Anna Martin.

“It’s the single most expensive thing we’ve ever done,” she said.

The complex will centralize the College’s arts program, housing the music, dance, theater, visual arts and art history departments. A concert hall and art museum are included in the design for the new building.

At 299,000 square feet, the structure will be slightly smaller than Earl Gregg Swem Library. Phi Beta Kappa Hall, Andrews Hall and the Muscarelle Museum of Art, would be demolished in order to allow for the building’s construction.

The building constitutes one part of the College’s ambitious six-year plan, a strategic initiative renewed every two years, which all Virginia public universities must complete.

Other buildings that are mandated by the six-year strategic initiative include the new Integrated Science Center, the Alan B. Miller Hall for the Mason School of Business and the School of Education.

According to Martin, the complex may take twelve years to complete, and work on the building can only begin once funding has been secured.

The fine arts complex is seventh out of 12 items on the College’s 2010-2012 Capital Program Request, which has yet to be considered by the Virginia General Assembly. Other items include renovations to Small and William and Mary Halls, along with funding for completing the design of phase three of ISC construction.

Initially, the College is requesting $8,125,000 from the state for the the complex. Funding requests have only been projected for the first four years, since it is impossible to determine how much money will be needed for later stages of construction.

Martin does not expect the project to receive funding from the state in the immediate future.

“That is a really large amount of money, and it’s going to take a really long time to raise that money,” Martin said.

According to Martin, six-year plans rarely receive full funding from the state.

“You may get the money for one project or two projects,” she said.

In addition, funding is not necessarily granted by the state to projects in the order that the College requests.
The College traditionally receives funding for the “maintenance reserve,” which is used for the campus’s general upkeep. Whether the state will grant funding for anything else is less certain.

“I’m hoping we get to Tucker [Hall],” Martin said, pointing out the fourth item on the list, after the essential maintenance reserve and utilities replacement requests.

The College is banking on private funding to carry out some of its main projects.

The timeline for construction will also depend on the College’s fundraising efforts.

The overall figure of $355 million was the result of a study conducted by the architectural firm Barton Myers working with a team of theater and museum experts.

The various departments that will be housed in the new building communicated extensively with the architects to ensure that their needs would be met. The estimated cost is based on projected inflation rates, considering the long-term nature of the construction.

Martin emphasized that the estimated cost is not likely to be accurate due to numerous uncontrollable factors, including inflation.

“It’s just a picture in time,” she said. “Which is why I caution people, ‘Don’t get so focused on the dollar amount.’”

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