Organizers Seek Council Commitment on City Land for Performing Arts Center

By: Adam D. Young

The nonprofit organization aiming to bring an $85 million performing arts center to Lubbock wants a commitment from city leaders promising downtown land for the project in writing.

Lubbock City Council members said they’re open to the Lubbock Entertainment & Performing Arts Association’s request for the city to give five acres of downtown property at Avenue L and Marsha Sharp Freeway — if organizers set the stage first.

Today, June 27, the council will consider granting the city-owned land — the current site of a soon-to-be-replaced Department of Public Safety headquarters — with conditions requiring the association to first raise $45 million for the project and begin construction by Dec. 31, 2017.

“This is just an agreement to transfer the land once we reach those certain milestones,” said association chairman Tim Collins. “This is important to potential donors to know progress is being made and a possible location is nailed down.”

Mayor Pro Tem Karen Gibson and other council members said they believe a new performing arts center will be an asset to downtown — especially if it’s built with private money at little expense to the city.

“I don’t have a problem with it,” she said. “I do think having a performing arts center would add a lot to that area and to the city as a whole.”

In April, the association announced its plans to raise about $85 million in private funding to build a 122,000-square-foot state-of-the-art entertainment and performing facility for concerts, ballet programs, symphony performances, Broadway shows, lecture series, cultural exhibits and educational programs.

At the time, the association announced it has already received commitments for $20 million from Lubbock’s CH Foundation and the Helen Jones Foundation.

Collins said the association continues its efforts to raise additional funds but is not ready to announce other pledges.

“I hope we’re announcing that $45 million in late summer or early fall,” Collins said, adding construction could begin as soon as 2014.

Mayor Glen Robertson said the city’s potential cost in the deal would be minimal, limited to the still-unknown price tag for demolishing the DPS headquarters. The DPS will vacate the property by year’s end as the state agency moves to a new location in the Lubbock Business Park.

“I think this is one of those situations that’s truly a win-win for everybody involved,” Robertson said.

Robertson said demolishing the building could range from a $100,000 job to remove the debris up to about $1 million if an abatement is necessary.

“I think it’s really premature to say what the cost is going to be, but — for the city — it’s going to be minimal if we can help bring in private money for the arts center,” Robertson said.

The association’s request asks the city to commit the land at 1302 Mac Davis Lane under the following conditions:

■ “Prior to transfer of the property, LEPAA will have at least $45 million in written commitments for building the center.”

■ “The association will continue to raise money for construction of the Performing Arts Center. If construction has not begun and if LEPAA is unable to provide assurances satisfactory to the city that its financial condition is strong enough to provide an income stream for construction of the center by December 31, 2017, the agreement will terminate.”

■ “If, after transfer, LEPAA fails to use the property for the public purpose of construction and operation of venue, ownership of the property will automatically revert to the city.”

Collins called the current DPS location between Marsha Sharp Freeway and Mac Davis Lane an ideal location for the center, due in part to its proximity to the Civic Center and its parking lot.

The Civic Center’s parking lot has 1,500 spaces, according to an email from Brooke Witcher, the city’s managing director of cultural facilities and events. Collins said he understands parking could tight if performing arts center and Civic Center events coincide, adding organizers are still considering that issue.

“We’re still in the very early stages of this process,” he said. “We still need to set milestones and hit those milestones first, such as finding more donors, determining naming rights.”