Residents want to keep new ArtsCenter, downtown affordable

CorrespondentDecember 13, 2013 

  • What’s next

    The town will present its vision for a downtown Carrboro arts and entertainment district at a public meeting Jan. 17 at the Century Center.

— What if a new ArtsCenter raises prices so high that local people can’t afford to attend shows or take classes there?

What if the neighborhoods near the new ArtsCenter become so desirable that low- and moderate-income residents can’t afford to live in them anymore?

Those were some of the questions asked during a meeting last week at Carrboro Town Hall about plans for a new ArtsCenter building.

The ArtsCenter board, which includes developer Phil Szostak who built the Durham Performing Arts Center, is embarking on a plan to build a new ArtsCenter at the corner of East Main and Roberson streets in Carrboro, where a parking lot is currently located.

While the idea is separate from a town proposal to designate Main and Weaver streets an arts and entertainment district, the two are closely linked as Carrboro looks to the future.

A new ArtsCenter building could be called the Center for Arts and Innovation and be a hub for the arts. In addition to performance spaces, it could become an incubator for arts-related businesses like textile printing.

Some of the space in the new building could be owned by the town or independently.

“That’s part of having this open forum is to hear from folks about these kind of things,” Szostak told those at Monday night’s meeting, one of many monthly meetings planned about the project.

The first phase, which should last about four to six months, is the strategic planning phase, Szostak said. That’s the time for all the parties, including business people who already work in downtown Carrboro, to figure out what kind of building will best fit into the community, how it will operate and how to pay for it.

“They’re all very difficult (issues), and they all have to come together,” he said.

Traffic concerns

While most people at the meeting said they liked the idea of a new ArtsCenter and a business incubation center in the building, some are concerned about parking and traffic. (Read more about parking challenges in Carrboro on page 3A).

Several people said they worried that downtown Carrboro could become so congested that people living in Carrboro might avoid the area.

One woman said she was worried that if the building is a big fancy building, the price of classes and performances would have to be increased to pay for the construction. Local people wouldn’t be able to afford it, she said.

Alderwoman Jacquelyn Gist said the area is already suffering from gentrification, not just in housing but in businesses as well.

“It’s something that we need to be careful with,” Szostak said. “That is truly something we need to be careful with, that we’re not going to gentrify this place.”

Szostak emphasized that every aspect, including the visual designs of the building he created, are just ideas. The plan is to move forward with regular meetings where people can hear about the progress and the plans and to offer their own ideas about the building and its operation.


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