Elected officials and private citizens are diligently working on a project that could mean substantial long-term benefits for Union County.
A joint meeting of city and county councils was held Tuesday to discuss the future multipurpose arts and meeting facility to be constructed in Union. The facility would be used for a variety of functions such as performances, events, exhibits, artisan displays, camps, meetings and conferences. Those involved in the planning process hope the facility will attract tourists, recruit business and help sustain population.
The construction costs of the facility will amount to $3.6 million. Col. Jack Whitener spoke about the core group that was formed to work on this project and the need for the formation of a board of directors.
Once formed, the board will begin long-term and short-term fundraising to fill a $1.9 million gap in construction costs.
“We feel this project can only be successful with a partnership between city council and county council,” Whitener said. “When this is brought to full fruition, it will make two councils truly proud to have it in the county we are lucky to live in.”
Architect David Langley of Langley and Associates spoke to the councils about the project.
“All equipment will allow the facility to function in a multipurpose fashion,” Langley said.
The 19,000 square-foot facility will contain 294 portable seats and a 24’ x 40’ portable stage, which will allow for a variety of setup options such as traditional theatre seating, seating on either side of the stage or seating on all four sides.
The facility will also include offices, a kitchen, dressing rooms and a lobby in which pictures, artifacts and monuments of Union and its municipalities will be displayed.
A facility of this nature has been discussed since 2003 when the old Union High School building was the preferred location. Shortly after, the building was destroyed by a fire.
The City of Union received an insurance settlement from that and a portion of the settlement will fund the new facility.
The original artist rendering depicted a 27,290 square foot facility with elaborate landscaping, and construction costs came to $4.1 million. That option did not fit into the project’s budget, and a second artist rendering was created.
The second rendering depicted a less elaborate building and landscaping design, and the square footage was reduced from 27,290 to 19,000. The core group asked for a third design with the original building façade and landscaping.
The current artist rendering looks like the first, except the square footage equals 19,683. The façade features two towers, similar to the towers of Buffalo Mill.
The similarity was not a coincidence; Langley said he grew up in Union County and had always admired the Buffalo Mill towers.