Could a cultural arts/conference center be supported in downtown Fuquay-Varina now that the town has grown to 18,000-plus residents and counts 48,000 within its trade area?
Back in the spring when the town board was deciding whether to put a cultural arts center in its five-year budget plan for capital improvements (it is in the fifth year of the plan), a group of 12 volunteers, calling themselves a Cultural Exploratory Committee (CEC) was formed. Its aim: to find out whether an arts center/conference center would be supported here.
Last week Keith McCombs, one of the co-chairs of the group, reported to the town board on its activities so far and the plans it has for measuring the interest of the citizenry in an arts and/or conference center.
A community-wide Visioning Meeting has been scheduled for Oct. 9 in the fellowship hall of the First Fuquay-Varina Methodist Church to give area residents opportunity to express their views on the committee’s proposal. Those interested are asked to register by going on line to the Downtown Revitalization website.
Naomi Riley, executive director of Fuquay-Varina Downtown, said she is asking for the registration because plans call for breaking participants into small groups during the meeting, and knowing the approximate number coming will help with planning.
McCombs said the committee’s focus is two-fold: “to determine how we might go about gauging the public’s interest and support for an arts/conference center and how to go about determining the feasibility of such a facility.”
Two specific steps have been taken. A proposal has been sent to 14 companies that specialize in facility studies. Interested companies will return proposals telling of their past experience and how they would go about conducting a feasibility study here, how long it would take and how much it would cost. Responses are to be returned by Sept. 7.
The successful vendor will first determine whether Fuquay-Varina could support such a facility and, if the answer is yes, will then consider where such a facility might be located and identify possible financing options and what the economic benefits would be.
McCombs said the committee has already obtained pledges of $1,000 each from four families to help finance the feasibility study. Other potential donors are being contacted.
In past years small groups have advocated for a cultural arts center, but have never succeeded in drawing enough interest and financing to move forward. This year at budget time, as town commissioners put together a five-year capital improvements plan, they included a cultural arts center in the fifth year—2016-17. In discussions several commissioners said they see such a facility as a possible public/private undertaking.
At a budget workshop one suggestion was made that a cultural arts center located between the Main Street and Broad Street business districts might help draw the two together.
As Combs concluded his remarks to the town board, he said he would like to return in November to deliver an update to commissioners.
Members of the Cultural Exploratory Committee are: Jim Seymour, economic development director: Tommy Broadwell, Chamber of Commerce executive director/ Lynnanne Fowle, Chamber membership director; Naomi Riley, Fuquay-Varina Downtown executive director; Marilyn Gardner, Downtown Board, Century 21-Becky Medlin Realty; Mollie Stephenson, former town commissioner, and three citizens at large, Anna Akins, Jeanne Ridpath, and Orlean Newton.