Proposed Burnsville art center closer to price tag

by Lonny Goldsmith - Sun Newspapers
March 1, 2006

A number of items came into focus for the Burnsville City Council, including a potential price tag: between $15 million and $45 million.

At a special worksession Tuesday night, the City Council learned that where in that price range the planned 1,000-seat project falls is still anyone's guess.

"It's a big range," said Mark Wentzell, the partner in charge at Ankeny Kell Architects, which is doing the pre-build study for the City Council. "We wanted to make sure they understood what the range of prices are and could be, without any decisions made as to what's appropriate."

Wentzell gave an overview of what good, better or best buildings could include and how large they could be. The projections ranged in size from 62,584 square feet for good to 100,128 square feet for best. The different options included different sizes for the box office, lobby and audience chamber.

"The City Council can make it whatever it wants it to be in the various areas," Wentzell said. "They could do the best production space, they could do best audience experience. Or both."

Wentzell estimated 180 square feet of office space for each of the six arts groups interested in being one of the user groups.

Scott Winters, the director of the Minnesota Valley Academy of Music, had sent a letter to the city staff detailing the space it would like to have. Winters, who was at the meeting, asked if his request was still being considered.

"Until we decide good, better or best, we can't answer that question," said Councilmember Liz Workman.

Councilmember Dan Gustafson asked if Wentzell's size estimate included space for a possible relocation of Burnsville Eagan Community Television to the PAC. Wentzell said that 5,000 square feet would need to be added to the final projection if that is the route Burnsville and Eagan choose to go.

Burnsville City Manager Craig Ebeling said that it's not a done deal.

"I wouldn't say it's a foregone conclusion in their mind," he said. "In or out, we can analyze it both ways. I haven't seen strong validation from their point of view."

Nigel Linden, the president of The Chameleon Theatre Circle, was encouraged because a smaller, black-box theater was going to be included in the building, no matter what the City Council decides.

"For our company, the 1,000 seat venue is going to be too large," Linden said. "Pleased to see even in the 'worst case' scenario, we still have our black-box space. It will be perfect for us."

The black box is a multi-purpose theater that has the ability to fit into different configurations with theater in the round, square, or more traditional theater settings.

Winters has been encouraged with the progress that has been made by the City Council.

"From what I can see, they're doing a good job on the planning," Winters said. "It's clear that they're doing something on a regional scale and if it works, it will be impressive."

Wentzell said it was early to get hung up on how much the facility could cost at this point.

"I think the reason they hired us to do the study was to find out what's real and at this point no one knows," he said. "That's why they are doing this work, so they can find out what real things cost and what's appropriate. Then they'll struggle with the decision making afterward."

Next week: Interviews with business plan consultants CBL International and COMPASS.

March 14: City Council worksession with cost estimate from Mortensen construction.

March 28: City Council special worksession with Springsted Inc., the city's financial advisers, to review financing options.

April 11: City Council worksession to see conceptual drawings.

May: Business plan report.

June: Decisions on Performing Arts Center.

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