The Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro has assembled a task force to advance to engage community dialogue, explore the feasibility and look for private funding for a performing arts center. Foundation President Walker Sanders said the task force will report back to council on June 19.
Mayor Robbie Perkins referenced the facility as a “Downtown Performing Arts Center,” indicating that the process is strongly tilting towards a facility in downtown rather than at the coliseum complex on Lee Street.
The foundation has hired Ross Harris as a project manager. Harris served as Perkins’ campaign manager during his successful bid last year to unseat Bill Knight as mayor.
The task force, which includes an advisory committee and subcommittees, is comprised of a who’s who list of power brokers in the arenas of arts and culture, real estate development and philanthropy: former NC Supreme Court Chief Justice Henry Frye and Louise Brady as co-chairs of the task force, Guilford County Superior Court Judge Patrice Hinnant and lawyer Reid Phillips as co-chairs of an economic impact/feasibility task force, Green Hill Center for NC Arts Executive Director Laura Way and Triad Stage Managing Director Rich Whittington as co-chairs of the economic impact/feasibility subcommittee for arts and culture, Greensboro Neighborhood Congress advisor Donna Newton and Mike Diamond as co-chairs of the citizen engagement task force, Kathy Manning as co-chair of the development/marketing task force.
The advisory committee also includes Downtown Greensboro Inc. President Ed Wolverton, NC Secretary of Cultural Resources Linda Whittington, Coliseum Director Matt Brown, public relations consultant Monty Hagler and Sanders.
Salted throughout the task force structure are civic heavy hitters including developer and downtown rentiers Roy Carroll and Randall Kaplan; community volunteer Betty Cone; former Councilwoman Florence Gatten; Cemala Foundation Executive Director Susan Schwartz; East Market Street Development Corp. President Mac Sims; Carolina Theatre President Keith Holliday; tea party activist Jeff Hyde; Green Bean owner Katie Southard, Greensboro Zoning Commissioner Ray Trapp; preservationist Marsh Prause; lawyer George House.
Sanders said the foundation plans to hire a nationally recognized consultant to assist in planning for the performing arts center. The foundation plans to hold three public forums in April and May. Sanders also said members of the task force will visit performing arts center in other cities.
“I think we all agree that one of the voids in this economy and the need for economic development is the lack of a performing arts center in Greensboro,” Sanders said.
The council heard some rumbling of dissent in tonight’s meeting from Michael Roberto, a professor at NC A&T University.
“We have serious, serious economic problems in this city,” Roberto said. “This council should be creating a task force to look at economic development and poverty…. Poverty is 20 percent. Last year poverty was 20 percent. I think it’s really incumbent for this city council to make poverty the priority.
“We should be planning to [build a performing arts center] in the next three years or so,” he continued. “The [Federal Reserve] is going to keep interest rates down through the end of 2014. There is no big rush to do it right now. We should make our priority economic development and the eradication of poverty.”
Mayor Perkins responded, “I think we all agree that job creation is the number one way to eradicate and move that poverty rate down.”