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S.L. County OKs cultural blueprint

Published April 7, 2009 5:41 pm

Plans » Study calls for regional hubs, theater upgrades, film center.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2009, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

If Salt Lake County is able to follow its new master plan, arts lovers could see cultural hubs in the suburbs, upgrades to beloved amphitheaters from Murray to Draper, the reincarnation of a defunct sugar factory in West Jordan and a film center in the capital's downtown.

Dueling visions of a 2,500-plus-seat playhouse in Salt Lake City or Sandy might even have a shot at county funds. But those proposals were given less weight in the plan, which concluded the demand for Broadway entertainment in Utah is being met.

On Tuesday, the County Council unanimously agreed to "accept" the $300,000 blueprint that will guide the multimillion-dollar development and use of arts venues for decades to come.

Midvale Mayor JoAnn Seghini, who helped shape the plan, told the council she was impressed by the willingness of arts groups to share facilities, when possible.

"What we found out ... is there is a great appetite for facilities of any size all over our county that will allow people to get together and experience the arts," she said. "It was overwhelming."

Prepared by AMS Planning & Research's California office, the master plan provides an inventory of 130 existing cultural facilities, which the county plans to make available online. The study also recommends the county consider helping 16 potential projects to join the lineup, although all proposals are welcome to apply for county funds.

About half the "master-plan projects," including a film center and Ballet West academy, are in Salt Lake City, which is deemed the county's "cultural core."

But the study envisions three suburban regional cultural centers, similar in size to Salt Lake City's Rose Wagner Center, four amphitheater upgrades, a renovation of Magna's historic Empress Theatre and a transformation of West Jordan's defunct sugar factory into an arts center.

That geographic breadth demonstrates the study's "very balanced approach," County Council Chairman Joe Hatch said in an interview.

"Most significant arts facilities should be centered in downtown Salt Lake," Hatch said. "In addition, though, [the plan concluded] that there is a huge crying need for smaller, regional cultural facilities throughout the county."

The $300,000 study -- the LDS Church kicked in $100,000 of the county's tab -- did not answer one mega-question: Should a mega-theater be built in Salt Lake City or Sandy?

Both Salt Lake City and Orem-based developer Proscenium Development Inc. have proposed large playhouses. But the master plan suggests the county hold off on supporting either one and warns that building such a facility would drain revenue from Capitol Theatre and Kingsbury Hall, the two current venues for Broadway acts.

The county has gathered close to 50 public comments since releasing the study in December. "In general, what we're seeing is very positive," said Phil Jordan, director of the county's Center for the Arts.

Of course, not all the feedback came as kudos. Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker, in a written comment, called the mega-theater analysis "incomplete," saying the study ignores the "history, track record and performance" of Utah's Broadway presenter NewSpace Entertainment.

And Scott Bond, Sandy's assistant chief administrative officer, criticized suggestions from downtown advocates that more preference be given to Salt Lake City venues.

"If a project proposed for downtown is worthy of funding," Bond wrote, "it should be able to stand on its own when measured by the other criteria."

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Master plan projects

Salt Lake County's Cultural Facilities Master Plan reviewed more than 60 proposed projects and recommended the following 16 be considered for some public funding.

Salt Lake City:

Abravanel Hall renovation » Remodel the lobby, backstage area and exterior plaza to boost circulation and enhance the experience for artists and patrons. Price tag: $800,000 to $1 million.

Capitol Theatre overhaul/Ballet West Academy » This project would eliminate 500 seats from Capitol Theatre to improve sight lines and audience comfort. Ballet West would get office and rehearsal space next door. Price tag: $34.6 million.

New film and media-arts center » The Salt Lake Film Society, SLC Film Center and Spy Hop Productions want to build a venue for independent films and art exhibitions. It could be used by the Sundance Film Festival and other groups. Price tag: $20 million to $25 million.

Rose Wagner Center expansion » Build two additional black-box theaters to the east to provide more space for rehearsals. Price tag: $7 million to $8 million.

Artist live/work space » Nonprofit group Artspace is planning, at 850 S. 400 West, its fifth live/work complex for artists. Price tag: $27 million.

Parking terrace for University of Utah venues » Additional parking is needed for Kingsbury Hall, Pioneer Memorial Theatre and Libby Gardner Hall. Price tag: $20,000 to $30,000 per parking slot.

Renovation or relocation of Salt Lake Art Center » The county-owned facility needs additional space or a new location. Price tag: $15 million to $30 million.

Midvalley:

Regional cultural center » Authors of the master plan propose three regional cultural centers with 57,000 square feet of space, including a 500-seat theater and a black-box playhouse. A midvalley one would serve the east and west sides. Price tag: $30 million to $35 million.

Murray amphitheater » Upgrade dressing rooms and concessions and erect a new stage canopy. Price tag: $2 million to $5 million.

West side:

Empress Theatre renovation » Upgrade the restrooms, lobby, concessions and plumbing, mechanical and electrical systems of the 1920s variety house. Price tag: $2 million to $4 million.

Southeast:

Regional cultural center » A regional cultural center with 57,000 square feet of space, including a 500-seat theater and a black-box playhouse. Price tag: $30 million to $35 million.

Draper amphitheater renovation » Complete an amphitheater in Draper's Mountain Park. Price tag: $2 million to $5 million.

Upgrade Midvale's small theater and amphitheater » An amphitheater at Midvale City Park and an auditorium inside City Hall need improvements. Price tag: $2 million to $4 million.

Southwest:

Sugar Factory adaptive reuse project » West Jordan plans to turn the former Utah & Idaho Sugar Co. factory near City Hall into an arts campus, boasting a 300- to 500-seat concert venue. Price tag: $7 million to $10 million.

Daybreak amphitheater upgrade » In 2009, South Jordan acquired a 250-seat amphitheater in Sunrise Mountain Park that could use a more complete stage and amenities for performers and patrons. Price tag: undetermined.

Regional cultural center » A regional cultural center with 57,000 square feet of space, including a 500-seat theater and a black-box playhouse. One for the southwest section of the county would be built last. Price tag: $30 million to $35 million.