just a spectator of the arts
represents city's views on theater renovation
saw singer Ani DiFranco in concert at the Carpenter Center
two years ago last month.
At the time, he didn't realize the historic theater was
about to close for renovations or that he would play a role
in helping reopen it.
Mayor L. Douglas Wilder recently chose Gerner as a volunteer
liaison consultant to his performing-arts committee. The
committee will spend the next two months preparing a final
report for renovating and expanding the Carpenter Center as
well as, perhaps, building two smaller theaters.
"I'm an additional resource to the committee, with the
perspective of bringing to the committee the city's views,"
said Gerner, managing director of Leisure Business Advisors.
City spokesman Linwood Norman noted Gerner's experience
providing feasibility studies and analysis for leisure and
"He had shown an ongoing interest in this development,"
Norman said of the arts center. "That and his expertise were
factors in his appointment."
Gerner sees his role as seeking consistency between the
committee's final report, due to Wilder on Dec. 31, and
views expressed publicly by the mayor.
One of the issues concerns ownership of the Carpenter
Center. The theater is currently held by the Virginia
Performing Arts Foundation, but Wilder has said the city
will not incur debt on buildings it does not own.
Gerner would not speculate on a change of ownership and
pointed instead to Wilder's City of the Future address in
January. "I think that's the starting point."
In those remarks, Wilder described how the city would own
the Carpenter Center and lease it to the arts foundation for
$1 per year. In return, the foundation would operate the
theater and create an endowment to cover operating deficits.
The City of the Future plan would provide $25 million of the
$45 million for the theater improvements with additional
funds coming from the sale of tax credits and private funds
already raised by the arts foundation.
In addition, the arts foundation says it has raised nearly
$10.8 million of the $20 million needed to build two smaller
theaters and support spaces along East Grace Street.
J. Robert Mooney, acting executive director of the
foundation, welcomed Gerner's involvement but would not
comment on potential city ownership of the theater.
Committee Chairman Robert J. Grey Jr. would not release
details but said a proposal addressing ownership and
management of the arts center has been submitted to the
mayor's office and the arts foundation.
Wilder appointed the committee last year to revise the
foundation's plan with an emphasis on reopening the
An interim report from the committee released last month
recommends the creation of a for-profit entity to undertake
renovations so historic tax credits can be used. The report
does not address ownership.
Gerner said a restored theater in Roanoke provides a
potential model for the Carpenter Center, which is now
expected to reopen in fall 2009.
The Jefferson Center is owned by the city of Roanoke and
leased to the nonprofit Jefferson Center Foundation. The
foundation created two limited partnerships to use tax
credits for the renovation.
Gerner had questioned whether the original plan was studied
sufficiently but now believes no one person is to blame for
the project's collapse last year. He sees little benefit in
focusing on the past. "The poor Carpenter Center's closed.
Let's move on."
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