Ballet West to build dance center
Ballet West announced plans Monday to build a new center for dance while renovating the existing Capitol Theatre.
The Jessie Eccles Quinney Center for Dance will be located next to the Capitol Theatre at 50 W. 200 South in downtown Salt Lake City on a lot that has been vacant more than a year. Designed by HKS Architects Inc.'s Salt Lake City office, Ballet West unveiled an artistic rendering of a new center that will include six studios connected to the Capitol Theatre, along with meeting and banquet space.
"This is a facility that will benefit not only Ballet West but every user of this facility," said Johann Jacobs, the company's executive director.
Monday morning's news conference for the $32 million facility, to be built in partnership with the Salt Lake County Center for the Arts, was attended by Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, Florence Christensen, widow of Ballet West founder Willam Farr Christensen, Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker and Salt Lake County Deputy Mayor Nichole Dunn.
Plans for the new facility arose five years ago after Ballet West looked at relocating its performance and rehearsal facilities to Sugar House, Jacobs said.
The Salt Lake Chamber asked the dance company to remain downtown, as Salt Lake County was planning to renovate the Capitol Theatre. The county had also launched a new planning process for cultural facilities and decided to purchase the lot west of the theater for expansion.
"The pieces fit together really well, and then the county really stepped up," Jacobs said. "It's like an armada of ships. You don't launch them one at a time, but all together."
Salt Lake County purchased the lot from Salt Lake City's Woodbury Corp. in 2008 for $3.2 million, demolishing the building that once housed the Absolute restaurant. The county's purchase also included buildings that currently house the Blue Iguana and Benihana restaurants, which are in the process of signing five-year leases with the county, said Erin Litvack, community services director for Salt Lake County.
Ballet West has raised $11 million for construction of the center and launched a capital campaign to raise an additional $6 million or more. Major funding will be provided by S.J. and Jessie E. Quinney, George S. and Dolores DorÃ© Eccles and Emma Eccles Jones foundations.
"It's a challenging time to move forward like this, but when is fundraising not a challenge?" Jacobs said.
Salt Lake County is expected to raise the remaining costs through $7 million in "new market" tax credits, plus possible taxpayer support in its 2012 budget, said Phil Jordan, division director for Salt Lake County Center for the Arts. Salt Lake City's role in the new center is undetermined, but Jordan said the county plans to sit down with Becker's administration to discuss the city's role.
At Monday's news conference, Hatch recalled how in his childhood his family scraped together $18.75 for season tickets to the Pittsburgh Symphony. "The arts are crucial for keeping our community together," said Hatch, as he pledged his support for the center.
The announcement adds a major performing arts venue to Salt Lake City's downtown core at a time when Salt Lake City is also considering renovating the Utah Theater. The city's Redevelopment Agency purchased the theater and an adjoining space between 144 and 156 S. Main St. for $5.5 million in January for a planned film and digital arts hub. The city opened the doors over the weekend for rare public tours of the 2,500-seat venue with an elaborate lobby.
Becker praised the proposed dance center as a step in the city's overall direction toward a revived downtown entertainment district. "When you combine this with what we see with City Creek, we're right on the edge of what so many of us have been looking forward to with the return of a vibrant downtown core," he said.
The Jessie Eccles Quinney Center for Dance
Where • Directly west of the Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South, Salt Lake City
When • Construction to begin spring 2012
Cost • $32 million
To donate • Visit www. balletwest.org