The ArtsCenter in Carrboro has long looked for a new home outside of its current location at 300 East Main Street — just the latest landing spot for the popular nonprofit in downtown.
While the organization has made the best use of what once was a former Piggly Wiggly, the ArtsCenter planned in recent years to relocate to a new site off Jones Ferry Road. But a change of course earlier this year saw it jump to a new spot and the Carrboro Town Council signed off with a final approval last month.
The ArtsCenter will be making a new home in the building at 400 Roberson Street in downtown Carrboro. The spot previously housed UNC’s Service Center of Excellence until September of last year, which then opened up the one-story, 17,000-square-foot space.
Known through the community for its arts classes and theater space since opening in 1974, the ArtsCenter lived in many homes around Carrboro. But a few years ago, the nonprofit began exploring for property to own instead of rent, with the search culminating in the purchase of an empty plot of land on Jones Ferry Road. In January, however, The ArtsCenter announced it would instead move just two blocks from its current home instead of away from downtown.
Since then, the nonprofit applied for a special use permit from the town for some renovation to begin. Architect David Gange shared during the public hearing process in May the organization plans to largely work around the existing structure, while updating the indoors to fit performance, gallery and classroom space.
Gange told the town council some of the biggest changes will simply be cosmetic details on the building’s exterior to make it more appealing to those walking along Roberson Street or Sweet Bay Place.
“[We’ll be] lightening and brightening the building,” he said. “Currently it’s kind of shades of red brick and beige metal panel with kind of a brown-ish awning. We’re going to lighten it up [with whites and greys] and imagining a monochromatic mural facing the back toward the cemetery sides.”
Inside, The ArtsCenter is going to offer much of the same resources the community has come to love as well as some additions.
“We have a theater that could house about a hundred and ten persons in the audience and a green room studio to the south,” said Gange. “We’ll have an alchemy studio, which is an AV and IT studio for kids and adults. The youth center is to the left, [and there is] a painting studio, a ceramic studio and the FAB lab, which is a fabric and sewing and quality studio.
“We’re not raising the roof for changing,” he added, “we’re just doing an interior reconfiguration of the space.”
The ArtsCenter said moving into this Roberson Street building provides them more space than constructing a new building. Additionally, the organization is keeping the existing 86 parking spaces on the property and have plans to update and build new bike racks.
Town Council member Susain Romaine said during a final consideration in June that she sees The ArtsCenter’s new home as a great opportunity for community members to use the Libba Cotten Bikeway, which ends right by 400 Roberson Street.
“I just think of this as being a bicycle hub with that connectivity to Libba Cotten,” said Romaine, “[with] lots of kids coming and hopefully being able to bicycle. I appreciate, very much, your investment in that.”
Meanwhile, Town Council Member Randee Haven-O’Donnell celebrated the fact The ArtsCenter has a new, permanent home downtown.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” Haven-O’Donnell said. “I have watched The ArtsCenter morph for 40-some-odd years and this is the most inspired fit I have seen.”
The council ultimately approved the special use permit with a 6-1 vote, with Town Council Member Sammy Slade as the dissenter. He still praised the nonprofit, but cited initial plans to not expand a smaller sidewalk at the front of the building as his reasoning.
“I’m all for The ArtsCenter,” Slade said. “I just really believe in and have seen the ten-foot sidewalk land-use ordinance ignored. I think tonight we could have requested and required this of the applicant over the summer – and for that reason I’m voting ‘no,’ knowing that it’s going to pass anyways.”
The website for The ArtsCenter did not say what the organization’s timeline for construction currently is, nor does it indicate plans for the Jones Ferry Road property it purchased.
Photo via David Gange Architecture/The ArtsCenter.
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