ST. GEORGE – A concept design plan was presented to the St. George City Council Thursday for the Electric Theater. The plan sees to the restoration and renovation of the century-old building and three adjacent buildings as they are converted into a downtown arts center.
Built in 1911, the Electric Theater is considered a part of St. George’s history, and moreover, the historic downtown area. The City of St. George bought the theater and three adjacent buildings on Tabernacle Street for $950,000 in early 2013.
The Electric Theater is seen as a potential focal point for the historic downtown and art district of St. George, Kent Perkins, leisure services director for the city, said in an interview with St. George News prior to the City Council meeting.
The Electric Theater is one of the anchors of the downtown area, he said.
Initial steps taken by the city to restore the property have included allocating over $300,000 toward making the 103-year-old structure compliant with building safety codes. The city then awarded a $154,938 bid to Campbell & Associates Architects for the design and engineering of the project during its Jan. 30 meeting.
Kim Campbell, of Campbell & Associates, presented initial concept plans for the Electric Theater and neighboring buildings to the City Council on Thursday along with Perkins and Gary Sanders, the city’s community arts administrator.
The concept design
Having a concept design in place helps give the City Council a starting point of where to go with the Electric Theater – it also gives the council an idea of how much the restoration and repurposing of the property could cost.
“Everything is really conjecture until we get a concept plan in place,” Perkins said.
The exterior of the Electric Theater will be remodeled to resemble how it looked when first built. The interior will undergo many changes in order to get as much usable square-footage out of the property as possible.
Perkins and Campbell said the floor of the theater will be sloped and have fixed seating installed. Counting the floor and balcony, they estimate the theater will hold up to 318 people.
The stage will be expanded to the width of the building and possibly made into a proscenium-style stage, complete with curtains and a backstage area.
Two buildings on the west side of the Electric Theater will be torn down and rebuilt, as doing so will be cheaper than attempting to keep them standing for renovation.
“The cost to stabilize those two buildings was significant,” City Manager Gary Esplin said.
“The spaces there aren’t usable,” Perkins said. In order to remedy that problem, the two buildings, once rebuilt, will be an open space, instead of the two separate spaces they currently are. The rebuilt portion will also have an upper and lower level.
Perkins said the upper level may be devoted to the visual arts. There could be a gallery in that area, along with artist studios. A skylight may also be built into the ceiling. The lower level could be devoted to the performing arts, with spaces for rehearsals, class rooms and offices. There may also be one large room with a wooden floor catering to dancers.
A fourth building that sits behind the Electric Theater will not be torn down and likely won’t have it’s exterior remodeled, Perkins said. The inside will be renovated and re-purposed accordingly. Perkins said the fourth building may be used as a green room/rehearsal area, and could also contain additional classrooms.
“I feel pretty good about it,” St. George Mayor Jon Pike said of the concept design. “I think it’ll be wildly successful.”
Once built, who will use it?
“We will use a fair amount of the space for our community programs,” Perkins said.
The city met with various groups and individuals in the arts community to ask what they would need and want in a community arts center. They did this on four separate occasions, with more recent meetings done at Pike’s request.
Among the groups asked for input about the incoming arts center, as well as those that have shown some interest in it, are: St. George Musical Theater, The Space Between Theater Company, Southern Utah Heritage Choir, Southwest Symphony Orchestra, St. George Dance Company, Westside Studio for Performing Arts.
While the venue may be too small for certain groups, Perkins said, they have nonetheless shown interest in possibly utilizing space at the Electric Theater is some capacity.
Use of the incoming arts center could also be included as a part of art grants the city supplies to various groups in the arts community, Perkins added.
When will the new arts center be complete?
Before the concept design was finished, Perkins couldn’t put an estimated date on when the Electric Theater complex could be completed. Once started though, he said the project could take five-to-six months.
Funding for the next phase of work on the complex may not be available until the city’s 2014-15 budget is drafted and approved by mid-summer. Once the funds area allocated to the arts center, Perkins said the goal is to have it built and done by Christmas, if not sooner.
“The general tone of my feeling is positive because we’re seeing progress,” he said.
- City discusses plans to renovate Electric Theater
- Augmenting the ‘Heart of St. George,’ Children’s Museum, purchase of Electric Theater
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