The Walton Arts Center’s board of directors maintain that a downtown parking deck is needed in the Fayetteville entertainment district, but concerns about limiting the art center’s growth potential on Dickson Street have thus far prevented them from weighing in on where they’d like to see it built.
Some progress was made on that front Thursday, however, when the board heard the findings from Portland-based Boora Architects.
The firm was hired in May to study the proposed parking deck locations while keeping in mind the Walton Arts Center’s plans for an expanded lobby and backstage, a reconfigured loading dock, and more office space.
Boora officials presented two options outlining a 26,000-square-foot expansion both with, and without, a parking deck on the current campus (Theater Lot). Both options included a second phase which would allow for future construction of a 600-seat theater where Grub’s Bar & Grille is currently located.
The firm also presented a list of several considerations for staff to resolve if a deck were built on the Theater Lot. Concerns include making sure construction doesn’t disrupt performances, and that production crews have proper access to the arts center’s loading dock.
While Thursday’s discussion focused mainly on the Theater Lot, city officials are still considering the WAC Lot as a possible deck location.
Board members Hershey Garner and Mike Johnson said they’d like to see the city re-open discussions about a third lot, located just south of Kingfish on School Avenue.
“I still think there’s a benefit to both the city and the Walton Arts Center to look at the East Lot,” said Johnson, who suggested the possible acquisition of three properties along Spring Street including High Roller Cyclery.
Mayor Lioneld Jordan said after the meeting, however, that he did not believe the City Council would be in favor of condemning any property. “You never say never, but that’s not something the Council likes to do,” he said.
Several board members, including Garner, said that both options presented by Boora were acceptable, but more work still needs to be done before they are ready to make a final recommendation.
The board voted unanimously to pass a resolution asking Walton Arts Center staff and the board’s parking deck committee to continue conversations with city staff. The resolution also asked that staff work with the city to look beyond the Theater Lot and the WAC Lot.
While the final decision on where to locate the deck will be up to the Fayetteville City Council, Mayor Jordan said knowing where the arts center stands on the issue would definitely be helpful.
“We don’t want to go forward with something, and the (Walton Arts Center) board is against it,” he said.
Parking deck project manager David Jurgens said he expects the City Council to begin formal discussions on the location sometime in August or September.
“I don’t know if I’ll have a recommendation or not,” said Jurgens. “But I’ll have a whole lot of facts ready for them to help them make their decision. From there, it’s going to be up to them to decide where to put it.”