not just a spectator of the arts
consultant represents city's views on theater renovation
Gerner 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
"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 cultural attractions.
"He had shown an ongoing interest in this development," Norman said of
the arts center. "That and his expertise were factors in his
Gerner sees his role as seeking consistency between the committee's
final report, due to Wilder on Dec. 31, and views expressed publicly by
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
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
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
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 Carpenter Center.
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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