Arts Will Fix Downtown

It’s frustrating to me when people who are ill-informed use their right of free speech to criticize almost any new initiative in Richmond (Back Page, April 9).

Let’s set the record straight. The proposed new complex of performing arts facilities will be an economic engine for this community. It will be a centerpiece of urban renewal for downtown. It will help the Convention Center be successful. It will attract many thousands of new visitors to this region. It will benefit (and is based on the input from) local performing arts organizations, both large and small, both black and white. It will provide, at last, spaces for our local performing arts organizations that live up to the quality of their talent. It will provide, at last, spaces that will work well for Broadway and other touring shows. Its arts education program will benefit all the kids in our community. And the facilities will deliver millions of dollars of new revenue to the city, which can be invested in needed services and schools.

Our plan has been in the works for almost six years. We’ve traveled around the country to see what works and what doesn’t in other cities. We’ve worked with the local performing arts organizations to understand what they need. We’ve researched the size of the audience in this region to be sure we build only what we can support. And we’ve done economic impact and feasibility studies with experts, both local and national.

It’s been said that “so goes the core; so goes the apple.” We cannot allow the core of our city and of our region to decay. We can learn from the successes in other communities, and create plans that will work here. Over the past five years, we’ve visited 30 cities around the U.S. — from Cleveland to Columbus to Portland to Louisville to Pittsburgh even Newark. The common denominator in their revival has been an investment in something that is not available in the suburbs — outstanding performing arts facilities.

Our fair city will reap these benefits:

• $1.5 million per year in new ticket tax revenue.

• Total new revenue to the city from the performing arts facilities and its immediate neighbors, more than $5 million.

• 1,326 new construction jobs.

• 437 new permanent jobs.

• $75 million in hard construction dollars.

• 17 percent of ticket purchasers coming from out of town.

Our new Convention Center has lost more than 75,000 room-nights because of the condition of Broad Street. Think of the economic impact of a successful Convention Center! In 2007, hundreds of thousands of people will be coming to Central Virginia to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Jamestown. We’ll be inviting Britain’s royal family and the president of the United States. Capitol Square will have a $125 million facelift. Just two blocks down the street, there are empty, decayed buildings. We’ve got to fix Broad Street.

A couple of years ago, I quit my job as a partner at The Martin Agency to come to the Virginia Performing Arts Foundation to bring to reality a facilities plan that had been several years in the making. I didn’t do it because of my love for the arts. I wouldn’t have done it if I thought that it would be an economic drain on our community. I did it because I’ve seen what projects like ours have done to improve other downtowns. I’ve seen what involvement in the performing arts can do to provide hope and discipline for our youth, black and white, who have given an enormous amount of energy and financial support to help make this performing arts project happen.

We should honor their selfless efforts and be thankful that they’re trying to build something that our children and our grandchildren will cherish.

Brad Armstrong

President & CEO

Virginia Performing Arts Foundation

Horse Shines

I literally gasped when I saw the cover photo of your May 21 issue (“Only the Best”). It is staggeringly beautiful, not just the subject matter, but the painterly quality of the photograph itself. Kudos to photographer Stephen Salpukas.

Tish Metts



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