UPDATED: Fayetteville mayor proposes $3.1 million TheatreSquared allocation for new downtown venue

An artist’s rendering shows what the new TheatreSquared building could look like at the corner of Spring and West streets in downtown Fayetteville.

Renderings by Kilograph / Courtesy TheatreSquared

UPDATE: Aldermen voted 7-1 to approve the allocation during the March 7 meeting of the City Council.

City Council members next week will consider putting $3.1 million toward a new performing arts theater in downtown Fayetteville.

The proposal, brought forth by Mayor Lioneld Jordan, would help local non-profit TheatreSquared build its planned $34 million facility at the southeast corner of West Avenue and Spring Street across from the Spring Street Parking Deck.

The organization in January received a $9 million commitment for the project from the Walton Family Foundation, but the award is a 1-to-2 challenge grant that requires TheatreSquared to raise $18 million on its own. It was the second award from the foundation, which gave TheatreSquared $3.5 million for design of the new facility.

The city’s money would come from the general fund reserve, which grew by about $3 million to $19 million in 2016 due to increased sales tax and building permit revenues.

It would be the second shot in the arm from aldermen, who last summer approved a longterm lease agreement with TheatreSquared for the property where the building is planned.

In a memo to council members, Jordan said the project would help fulfill a goal of the city’s recently adopted Fayetteville First economic development plan, which recommends further enhancement of Fayetteville’s arts and cultural environment.

More specifically, the plan states that the city should support the development of an expanded cultural arts district that includes a concentration of amenities, including fine arts facilities like concert halls, theaters and galleries.

Jeremy Pate, the city’s development services director, said the economic and cultural impact of another downtown theater would be a significant draw for tourism and would help the surrounding businesses as well.

“We believe it’s an investment in our future, a very sound, longterm investment,” said Pate. “We’ve already seen what the return on that investment has been from the Walton Arts Center in the 1990s and what Dickson Street is today compared to what it was before then.”

Martin Miller, TheatreSquared’s executive director, originally requested $7 million from the city.

In a Feb. 15 letter to Jordan, Miller said the new facility would cement Fayetteville’s future as the region’s theatre district “with year-round diverse performances fueling our downtown’s economic engine and drawing hundreds of thousands of the nation’s art tourists who are already traveling to visit Crystal Bridges.”

While Jordan said he’s in full support of the project, he doesn’t recommend granting the full request.

“It is incumbent upon me to make sure that I bring forward a plan that helps us advance our goals, but that does not put the city in a position of unsustainable financial security,” Jordan wrote in his memo. “I do not want to risk using our full reserves and to leave no funding flexibility in case of uncertain financial times.”

Aldermen will formally discuss the TheatreSquared proposal and the employee pay raise plan at the next City Council meeting on March 7.