The Carroll Arts Center moved beyond the drawing board last night when Westminster's Common Council awarded a nearly $1 million contract for the renovation of the Carroll Theater.
Work to transform the former movie theater into an arts center, one of the most eagerly awaited projects in downtown Westminster, could begin as soon as next month.
The council awarded the $998,000 contract to GRC General Contractor of Westminster.
Two months ago, the council rejected seven bids for the project because they were too high.
The lowest was 36 percent over budget. The bids ranged from $1.36 million to $1.56 million for the renovation.
Thomas B. Beyard, director of planning and public works, worked closely with the center's tenant, Carroll County Arts Council, and the project's architect, Beck, Powell & Parsons of Baltimore, to cut about $350,000 from the cost.
The project then was rebid.
"It was important that while we cut dollars, the integrity of the project remained," he said.
The center's 264-seat theater, first-floor gallery and 640-square-foot backstage addition remain, but a second-floor gallery and brick walkway entrance and crosswalk were eliminated, at least for now, said Sandy Oxx, executive director of the arts council.
"If more money comes down the pike, we'll be able to do it," Oxx said
In addition, the arts council - not the city - will pay for features such as stage curtains and theater seats.
"We didn't want to put the project on hold and raise more money," the executive director said. "I think the community needs to see this happen in the not-too-distant future."
Westminster bought the former Carroll Theater on Main Street in June last year from Church of the Open Door with $310,000 in state Program Open Space funds allocated by the Carroll County commissioners.
The city has about $935,000 for the project, and the council approved shifting an additional $114,000 from appropriated funds to cover the rest of the cost, Beyard said.
Westminster also is awaiting news from the state on whether the city has been awarded a $100,000 Community Legacy grant for the project.
The state's announcement on the award of those grants is expected today.
Optimistic on state money
Karen L. Blandford, manager of the city's Office of Housing and Community Development, told the mayor and council last night that she was "cautiously" optimistic that the city would receive at least part of the money it requested from the state.
Carroll County Arts Council has raised $315,000 for the new arts center, $200,000 of which has been committed to the theater's renovation.
Oxx said the council is raising money to cover the additional $200,000 cost of a sound and lighting system and the theater seats.