Walton Arts Center board votes to ‘fast track’ Fayetteville expansion

A conceptual rendering shows what an expanded Walton Arts Center could look like at the corner of Dickson Street and West Avenue in Fayetteville

Courtesy, Walton Arts Center

Walton Arts Center officials have agreed to “fast track” a $20 million expansion of the arts center’s facility on Dickson Street in Fayetteville.

The organization’s board voted unanimously Tuesday to hire Portland-based Boora Architects to begin design of a new outdoor plaza, a larger lobby, and a renovation and expansion of Starr Theatre, among other planned improvements.

The architects will also work with the city’s design department on the planned downtown parking deck project.

“We need to go ahead and get Boora on board to be able to begin working with the city and looking at how we design the expansion as a whole,” said Walton Arts Center COO Terri Trotter.

Fayetteville City Council members earlier this month chose the “Theatre site” as the location for the planned 246-space parking deck. The plan requires demolition of the arts center’s administrative offices, but the council has promised to “pay for, construct, or provide” replacement office space for the organization.

The council also promised to:
– Provide 35 free parking spaces in the deck
– Excavation so that the Walton Arts Center can expand its backstage
– Construct a shell to assist in the planned backstage expansion project
– Reasonable rent and moving expenses for WAC administrative staff displaced by the construction to the deck and their replacement building

Walton Arts Center officials said they feel the parking deck construction project should work in concert with their other expansion plans for the arts center.

“We need this architect to come on board now to help us understand how our expansion fits in with what’s going to happen with the city,” said Peter Lane, the arts center’s CEO. “We need to get some designs, and get this thing flushed out so that we can get to the next phase, which is fundraising.”

Lane said he plans to start the fundraising process next month by asking for a contribution from the Fayetteville Advertising and Promotion Commission, an idea he said was suggested by Mayor Lioneld Jordan.

“We believe that going to the A&P is the right move, because it fits squarely within their domain,” Lane said. “It will drive economic activity and impact, and it will certainly bring more people downtown.”

Plus, he said a financial commitment from the commission could help get other donors on board.

Lane said the plan is to break ground on the expansion next year. Construction, he said, should be complete sometime in 2015.

“We’re ready to rock and roll,” he said.

Expansion timeline for Fayetteville and Bentonville facilities