Community discusses Performing Arts Center proposal for first time

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GREENSBORO, N.C. — A task force formed to study the feasibility of a performing arts center in Greensboro heard from the community for the first time today.

There is no shortage of opinions about the idea.

“The reason everybody wants to come downtown right now is because it’s taken care of,” Billy Jones said. “My neighborhood’s not, and it hasn’t been in over 50 years. It’s about time it happened.”

Jones wants the city to build the performing arts center in his neighborhood in northeast Greensboro. City council asked the task force to study the economic impact of a performing arts center downtown, so it’s not considering other areas.

For Nia Hendrix-Wilson, accessibility is not so much a matter of location as it is income.

“It’s very important that we address not just the high and middle income but also address the lower income people and figure out what they want in their community,” Hendrix-Wilson said.

Hendrix-Wilson is in favor of a performing arts center but wants to make sure it is a multicultural facility.

Not everyone thought Greensboro should publicly finance a new arts center. For now the task force is considering a $50 million facility. They plan to ask for a $30 million bond and $10 million in a hotel/motel tax. The task force wants to raise another $10 million from private investors.

Earle Bower said he and his wife have supported the arts for dozens of years, but he’s not convinced this is a good investment for Greensboro.

“Here’s going to be a big organization funded with public money competing against arts organizations that have to rely on private money. It just seems like a tough job,” Bower said.

Bower said a new center could become tough competition for the Carolina Theatre.

“How many nights or days we think we would fill a 3,500 seat venue? It just seems incredibly optimistic to me,” Bower said.

The task force is trying to gather more opinions from Greensboro voters. On May 1, it’ll get a report on the economic impact of a performing arts center.