An arts center planned for the corner of Emmet Street and Ivy Road won’t include a 1,600-seat theater originally slated and the project overall may come later than expected. The reason? A $22 million gift from now-deceased big-dollar donor Carl Smith’s estate is “on hold,” says UVA Architect David E. Neuman.
Neuman says his office is currently “reprogramming” the project. Instead of a new theater, which would have featured concerts like the ones that currently appear at Old Cabell Hall, “Phase I” of the arts center will include a 250-room residential college for arts students. Neuman says UVA is trying to find a way to “self-fund” the residences, which “would be to a certain degree supported by the students’ rent of the dormitory,” he says.
The theater space isn’t top priority, Neuman says, because “with the opening of the Paramount and its success” his office is reconsidering what sort of performance facility is needed. The Paramount seats 1,039. Neuman says they’ll tackle a theater in “Phase II” of the project.
The building will deliver on some of its promises, at least. The arts center will add one black-box theater, flexible rehearsal space, a museum, space for the marching band and a common space for arts students to interact.
The timeline for the project, which was slated to begin next year, has been pushed back to an unspecified date. Originally a $98 million building, Neuman now estimates UVA will need to raise an additional $12 million to $22 million for the center and dorm.
Neuman says the UVA Development Office is now “looking for how to reinstitute that funding for the arts facilities themselves.” As for why the funds aren’t coming through from the Smith family, who were the keystone donors for UVA’s football stadium and numerous other projects, Neuman says, “I really don’t know what the details are on that.” Alison Traub, assistant vice president for development, could not be reached for comment by press time.
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