GPAC project lurches forward amid budget concerns

by Jeff Sykes

Editor’s note: The illustrations in this article come from a recent architect’s presentation to major donors to the Tanger Performing Arts Center and represent early visualizations of what the TPAC may eventually look | @jeffreysykes

At a meeting almost two years ago, the main forces behind the private donations that would finance about half of the proposed Performing Arts Center in Greensboro laid out their wish list.

The center, now known as the Tanger Center for the Performing Arts, should “anchor downtown development” and “activate Elm Street,” the donors said.

“It should be an iconic building with a big impressive lobby and a theater that serves the community’s needs. The building must be attractive,” said Kathy Manning, an executive behind the drive to raise more than $35 million in private funds to pay for the center, according to minutes from the three days of meetings that took place in December 2013 at the ACC Hall of Champions Board Room.

A presentation a few days later from Venue, a consulting firm that provides construction and cost control services, quoted the TPAC’s construction budget at $48.9 million.

Venue suggested that in order to meet the estimated budget, that the TPAC not exceed 100,000 gross square feet and suggested that “quality needed to be of basic standard, not lavish or high end.”

The company estimated a cost of $489 per square foot.

“Of course if the program cannot be kept to 100,000sf then the available budget per sf will reduce, making the challenge even greater.”

The city determined that having a construction manager at risk would be the best way to execute the construction phase of the project, and Skanska Rentenbach, a joint venture, was formed. The City of Greensboro executed a contract with Skanska Rentenbach in January that pays the company $300,000 for pre-construction service. Skanska USA Building and Rentenbach Constructors Inc. formed the joint venture.

The project has stalled from its stated schedule as private donors, and the public’s point man on the project, attempt to agree on a maximum price for the project. A guaranteed maximum price is critical to the construction manager at risk, since that form of management requires the project to be delivered for a set price.

The Greensboro News and Record reported on part of the discussion last week, reporting that the current construction price is now $58 million, with the private sector hoping to whittle that down to $50 million. Documents made public as part of that reporting shed light on many aspects of the project, including first glimpses at the possible design of the center.

A June 12 presentation labeled “Donor Update”, according to email records, which was created by the project architect, New York-based Hardy Collaboration Architecture, contained an updated budget discussion and artist renderings of the building, lobby and theater space.

The presentation included three “hybrid” designs, which appeared scaled back from the main “wide angle” design that had a price tag of about $65 million. The wide-angle design would have been situated at an angle to Elm Street, at about a 45-degree angle across the TPAC site. All three “hybrid” designs have a smaller footprint and sit parallel to Elm Street.

Hybrid 1 comes closest to the stated $58 million budget. The design calls for 3,075 seats in a total space of 98,500 square feet. The cost per square foot amounts to $491, for a construction cost of $50 million. Hybrid 2 cuts off about 300 seats and $4 million. Hybrid 3 is even smaller, at 83,000 square feet, but maintains 3,075 total seats in a construction budget of $44 million. Each design calls for about $7.5 million in additional equipment costs.

Notes from a June 24 conference call between Walker Sanders of the Greater Greensboro Community Foundation, Matt Brown, the director of the Greensboro Coliseum, and Kathy Manning, the project’s chief private donor fundraiser, showed the group drilling down into final details for the project.

The group discussed seating configurations that fit within the Broadway viewing cone, the layout of the orchestra pit, and how many side parterre boxes to include.

Planners are also considering how to include a cross aisle that could divide the space into a smaller, defined 1,500 seat venue for smaller events.

The plan will assume one balcony, but “two balconies only if within budget.”

As budget considerations mount and the time for a publicly unveiled design creeps closer, some things remain nonnegotiable.

“We want to preserve as much glass and higher architectural finish as possible for the South/Front entrance face of the venue,” one of the parties replied to the meeting notes. “Our willingness to accept the reality of the less expensive (material) above a set elevation point to be recommended by your would ONLY be for the East, West, and North exteriors. NOT the South exterior.”

The architects replied, “we will study this adjustment.”

Geoff Lynch, a partner with Hardy Collaboration Architecture, reminded the group that the budgets were tight.

“I want to make sure this is heading towards the budget before we go too far,” he wrote. “Keep in mind Scheme 2 of the most recent presentation, the smaller of the two, was almost $59 million.” !