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ArlingtonAdvocates lay out financial plan for performing-arts center

Advocates lay out financial plan for performing-arts center

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Hoping to succeed where the county government couldn’t, a coalition of performing-arts supporters in Arlington has unveiled a funding plan to, they hope, pave the way for construction of a new, purpose-built venue to meet the needs of a number of local arts groups.

The proposed facility would cost upward of $10 million in capital costs coupled with a modest deficit in annual operating costs, and could be accomplished without government support, said Embracing Arlington Arts.

That advocacy organization has been pushing for a dedicated performing-arts venue for several years, and its president – Janet Kopenhaver – said the newly released plan helps move the ball forward.

“We are very excited to publish this business plan for a new venue in the county,” Kopenhaver said, thanking Amazon for underwriting the cost of a consultant to research and draft the document.

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The proposal calls for a facility that would include a black-box performance space of 100 to 150 seats, along with rehearsal studios, dressing rooms, backstage storage, offices, concession space and a lobby.

The goal is to have a developer ride to the rescue in providing space and construction costs, with Embracing Arlington Arts fund-raising to meet the additional costs.

“This plan assumes [we] will raise funds to support the new venue from investors, corporations, the developer, private individuals, foundations and other entities to cover the capital costs,” Embracing Arlington Arts treasurer Robert Goler said. “Furthermore, this plan assumes no management requirement by the county [and] no county staff expenses.”

The most optimistic timetable, if a developer-partner could be found quickly, would be to start construction by late 2023 or early 2024.

“Several specific sites are being currently researched, and an announcement will be made once one has been decided upon and vetted,” organization officials said.
Looming over the endeavor is the somewhat tragi-comic – at times verging on farce – experience with the Artisphere, a county-government-funded-and-operated arts center that opened in Rosslyn to high (and, as it turned out, wildly inflated) expectations and proved a financial disaster before the government cut its losses and shut it down in 2015.

That experience notwithstanding, Arlington has what would seem to be a large number of performance spaces compared to its overall size. Signature Theatre performs in dedicate space in Shirlington; Synetic Theater performs in its own space in Crystal City; and the county government operates theaters in several schools that are leased out for productions.

Yet there used to be more available venues, occupied by more performing-arts organizations, in the county. The proposed new space would augment the offerings while providing additional economic benefits, Kopenhaver said.

“We know this is a challenge, but we also recognize that Arlington is a great county that can be made better with the addition of a performing-arts/live-music venue that can benefit many of our residents through the continued incorporation of arts and culture in their everyday lives, as well as help local restaurants that depend on Arlingtonians spending their time and dollars in Arlington, and not in D.C., Maryland or other sections of Virginia,” she said.

For more on the plan, see the Website at www.embracing-arlington-arts.org.

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