Westminster rejects bids for art center restoration

Project's estimated cost higher than expected

October 08, 2001|By Maria Blackburn | Maria Blackburn,SUN STAFF

Higher-than-expected bids have prompted Westminster Common Council to delay awarding a contract for the restoration of the decrepit Carroll Theater into a gleaming, neon-decked Carroll Arts Center.

The Common Council was expected to award a $1 million contract for the project tonight. But the seven bids the city received for the project are between 36 percent and 56 percent over budget, ranging from $1.36 million to $1.56 million, said Thomas B. Beyard, director of planning and public works.

The council likely will reject the bids as submitted and advertise for more bids.

The city will work with the architect and the center's tenant, Carroll County Arts Council, to determine the best way to cut about $300,000 in costs.

"We need to work with the arts council to determine what could be modified so as not to affect the integrity of the project," Beyard said.

The city has $935,250 to pay for the theater renovations. Beyard said he is hopeful that Westminster also would be awarded a $100,000 Community Legacy grant from the state to pay for the project.

The council hopes to award the revised arts center contract at its meeting Nov. 12, said council President Damian L. Halstad.

"Time is of the essence," he said.

The West Main Street arts center is one of downtown Westminster's most eagerly awaited projects.

The 14,000-square-foot facility would have two galleries - one for group shows and a second for solo shows - a 264-seat theater, a 3,000-square-foot second-floor expansion and a 640-square-foot backstage addition. The plan includes restoring the building's original art deco marquee.

An architect had estimated exterior and interior renovations to the theater would cost $860,000 to $1 million.

Sandy Oxx, executive director of Carroll County Arts Council, said late last week that she hopes renovations will begin before the end of the year and be completed by summer.

Westminster bought the former Carroll Theater in June last year from Church of the Open Door with $310,000 in state Program Open Space funds allocated by the Carroll commissioners.

The city will own and maintain the building, and Carroll County Arts Council will be the sole tenant.

Councilman L. Gregory Pecoraro said the project is important to the city not just because of what it is, but because of where it is.

"We've worked very hard to bring new life back to the central business district," he said. "Having [the arts center] there on that part of Main Street is going to be an anchor along with Western Maryland College to the west end of Main. We're now in a position to draw people from the college down into town."

The arts center, with the Carroll County Historical Society's renovation of Cockey's Tavern and the Judge Bond House on the east end of Main Street, serve as "cultural bookends" in downtown Westminster, Pecoraro said.

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