Fayetteville aldermen this week will consider a lease agreement that would allow TheatreSquared to build a new performing arts center on a city-owned parking lot near Dickson Street.
The property is located at the southeast corner of Spring Street and West Avenue across from Nadine Baum Studios, where the local nonprofit theater company has leased space for about a decade.
The 25-year contract could be renewed up to three times, and does not include any rental fees for use of the land. Instead, TheatreSquared would be required to provide “highly professional performances” that, at a minimum meet “the quantity and quality of those performed over the past year.”
Martin Miller, TheatreSquared executive director, said last year that with sold-out shows becoming a common occurrence at Nadine Baum Studios, it’s time for an expansion.
“As one of the nation’s fastest-growing theatre companies, we have stretched the limits of the work we can create and the audience we can serve in our current space,” said Miller.
The group enlisted London-based theatre consultancy Charcoalblue to assess the company’s current space, and was then awarded a $100,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to explore potential sites. TheatreSquared was later selected as one of the first projects for the Walton Family Foundation’s new Northwest Arkansas Design Excellence Program to help pay for architectural work on the new facility.
Preliminary plans for the building include at least 50,000 square feet of space with room for a performance hall, a gift shop, a residential facility for traveling performers, and a possible coffee shop or restaurant. Officials have also discussed incorporating facilities for community activities, educational programming, and gathering spaces.
“The outcome will be a truly world-class, locally programmed, nationally recognized arts destination in the heart of downtown Fayetteville,” Miller wrote in a letter to Fayetteville Mayor Lioneld Jordan. “Along with the renovations now underway at the Walton Arts Center, we see the emergence of a true performing arts district that advances the city’s Downtown Master Plan and defines our downtown as an arts destination for generations.”
If the deal goes through, the city would lose 54 parking spaces, but officials said the new 236-space parking deck at the corner of Spring Street and School Avenue will make up for the loss.
Jeremy Pate, Fayetteville’s development services director, said city staff are in full support of the endeavor.
“We believe the impact of an expanded, unique professional theater in the downtown area can be a significant draw for tourism and economic development,” Pate wrote in a city memo. “In combination with the Walton Arts Center expansion and the amenities that downtown Fayetteville has to offer, this facility, if fully realized, will add to the Northwest Arkansas region’s arsenal of cultural amenities, thereby fueling tourism and spending in our economies.”
Pate said if agreed upon, the lease will not take effect until the project is formally approved and ready to be constructed, and proof of financing the capital costs is in hand.
Aldermen will take up the issue during the next regular City Council meeting at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 7 inside room 219 at City Hall.