ArtsCenter restarts planning for new downtown Carrboro site


An existing office building at 400 Roberson St. in downtown Carrboro was offered to the ArtsCenter in September 2021 for its new home. If the project proceeds, it would replace a proposed building already approved for Jones Ferry Road.


A deal to keep the arts in downtown Carrboro for many decades could supersede plans for a new ArtsCenter on Jones Ferry Road.

The ArtsCenter, now located in an outdated space at 300 E. Main St., has a building at 400 Roberson St. under contract and plans to submit a special use permit application to the city next week, the director said. executive Dan Mayer to The News & Observer in an interview on Wednesday.

The site is behind a public parking lot at the corner of Main and Roberson streets and the Libba Cotten bike path, which runs along the northeast boundary of the property.

“It’s more space than we would have had on Jones Ferry Road, and it’s more accessible,” Mayer said. “It won’t be a designed (brand new) building, but we’ve hired an architect and he’s started making drawings. I think this will be a really great new home for The ArtsCenter.

However, Mayer won’t see the new project come to an end, as he leaves Jan. 31 for a new job at the Chapman Cultural Center in South Carolina. Deputy Director Mark Bettger will serve as interim director until the board hires a permanent replacement.

It’s time to look for new opportunities now that The ArtsCenter is “set up for success,” Mayer said. He cited its strong financial footing despite COVID-19 restrictions, an ongoing fundraising campaign and Bettger’s ability to lead the course.

“This opportunity came up, and I thought it was a good time to bring some new leaders to the ArtsCenter and let them finish this project and showcase the strengths that we’ve really developed over the past couple of years. years,” Mayer said. .

The non-profit ArtsCenter has been offering art classes, camps and performances at this former Carrboro Piggly Wiggly store for over 40 years. Tammy Grubb [email protected]

Similar cost, more program space

The one-story Yaggy Building on Roberson Street is less than a five-minute walk from the current ArtsCenter, which has operated out of a former Piggly Wiggly grocery store since the 1980s. Main Street Partners LLC redeveloped the surrounding mall at 300 E. Main St., which is also home to Cat’s Cradle, Vencino Brewing Co. and Amante Gourmet Pizza.

On Roberson Street, the ArtsCenter would own the approximately 17,500-square-foot, two-acre, 87-parking Yaggy Building.

It would be slightly smaller than the current building, but would replace an even smaller building approved for 315 Jones Ferry Road, about a mile west of the current site. The nonprofit continues to pay installments on the ground while considering its options, Mayer said.

ArtsCenter Roberson Street Floor Plan.jpg
Early ArtsCenter plans for 400 Roberson St. include a 118-seat performance theater, larger ceramics studio, gallery and enclosed outdoor space, painting center, performance space and art studio. writer, as well as creative spaces for adults and young people. David Ganges Contributed

Approximate plans for Roberson Street include a 118-seat performance theatre, larger ceramics studio, gallery and enclosed outdoor space, painting centre, performance space and writer’s studio, as well as spaces for adults and youth, including an “alchemy lab” for audio-video projects and a “FabLab” for working with textiles, said ArtsCenter Board Chairman Michael Frisch, and architect David Gange.

The project would also install a sprinkler system and give the exterior a facelift.

“You get about 4,000 square feet more in this building,” Gange said. “In the Jones Ferry one, the performance space had shrunk due to budget, so we’ll get it back.”

The renovation could cost between $6 million and $7 million, an amount already budgeted for the construction of Jones Ferry Road, Mayer said. The ArtsCenter has $3 million from its fundraising campaign so far, he said.

But the new building will not have the same physical challenges as the Jones Ferry Road site, which required working with steep slopes, an Orange Water Sewer Authority easement and a buffer zone covering half the land. Council last year approved plans for the two-story, 12,600-square-foot building with 38 parking spaces after waiving one of the city’s three local stormwater requirements.

This time, they’re hoping to get an expedited review from the city because the exterior of the building won’t change significantly, Frisch said. The site is zoned for general business, which includes a range of uses, but with limited nighttime hours to reduce effects on neighboring homes.

ArtsCenter Roberson Street 1 (2).jpg
A preliminary rendering of The ArtsCenter’s proposed new home is seen from the Sweet Bay Place right-of-way in downtown Carrboro. Plans for the new arts center could be submitted by the end of January 2022. David Gange Contributed

Roberson Street Library, changes

The idea for the Roberson Street site developed quickly when they were approached by representatives from The Yaggy Corp., which owns the building, ArtsCenter officials said. The previous tenant, UNC IT and Finance Operations, moved in September.

The location is great for a number of reasons, including the extra parking and proximity to downtown restaurants and shops, Frisch said. Buses bringing children to the ArtsCenter will be able to stop right up to the sidewalk, he said.

It will also be within walking distance of 203 South Greensboro, the city’s joint project with Orange County to build the new South Branch Library, as well as space for city parks, recreational resource programs and cultural centers, a teen center, a virtual justice center, the Orange County Skills Development Center, community radio station WCOM, and parking.

It will mean big changes for Roberson Street over the next two years, Mayer said.

“It’s almost an alley now. It’s a cut. It is not a street with its own identity,” he said. “Once the library enters, once we enter it, all of a sudden it won’t just be the back of our main street. I think it will eventually acquire its own identity.

Project 203 - Roberson Street .jpg
The main entrance to the South Branch Library would be located on Roberson Street near the Open Eye Cafe in downtown Carrboro. The building at 203 S. Greensboro St. would also house city offices and a host of other programs and services. Perkins and Will Contributed

The ArtsCenter had sought to be part of the 203 South Greensboro project, but changed course in 2018. Now there will be many more opportunities for collaboration, Frisch said.

“I know there are people who are disappointed that we were leaving Jones Ferry, because they (we) sort of saw it as the anchor tenant in that part of town,” he said.

“I know when we’ve spoken to business owners in town they would have much preferred us to be in town so people could walk from a restaurant to a show or evening class or pick up your kids and go out to dinner,” he mentioned.

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This story was originally published January 20, 2022 8:06 a.m.

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Tammy Grubb has been writing about Orange County politics, people, and government since 2010. She is an alumnus of UNC-Chapel Hill and has lived and worked in the Triangle for more than 25 years.