Almost a year has passed since Oxford started construction of its performing arts center. A few unforeseen problems delayed construction a couple of months, officials said, but work is now well under way and should be completed by the spring.
Fred Denney, city project manager, said the approximately $10.4 million arts center project is still within budget and is scheduled for completion in March. Denney said the project construction was delayed a few months earlier this year because of issues with the soil under the building’s foundation.
“The work digging out the foundation … there was bad soil,” Denney said. “That slowed production down.”
Workers had to dig out loose soil and refill it with firmer soil to avoid potential future problems of a sinking or unlevel foundation.
That process is finally complete, and now the project is in full swing, Denney said.
“It’s moving along,” he said. “I was down there a good bit Wednesday, and we had 63 people down there working on it.”
The project includes the renovation of Oxford’s old city hall and the addition of a 1,200-seat theater in the back. The former city hall, which also once served as a police department and a school, will be turned into the lobby for the arts center, complete with offices and meeting rooms. Parts of the old building will remain intact, including a couple of original columns and the original pine floor.
“The mayor and the council wanted to get the arts center in the downtown area, and because of historical reasons, residents wanted to keep that building,” Denney said.
The theater section will be covered in brick as similar as possible to that on the old city hall. It will contain a stage, orchestra pit, dressing rooms and state-of-the-art acoustics and sound equipment.
There will also be a balcony and three meeting rooms.
“I think the whole city will be pleased with what they see,” Denney said.
Gloria Horton, president of the Oxford Arts Council — a volunteer group that promotes cultural arts in the city — said her organization was looking forward to the opening of the facility.
“Oxford has never had a place dedicated to the performing arts,” Horton said. “We’re excited we’re finally going to have the facility.”
Horton noted the bigger space will allow the arts council to book larger performances than in previous years. The arts council has typically relied on the stage in the gymnasium of the Oxford Civic Center for performances.
“We’ll certainly have things we couldn’t have before,” she said.
The facility will not be relegated for use by the arts council alone. City schools and the community will have the opportunity to book events and performances at the center. To keep the facility organized, the city will hire a performing arts center director, said Don Hudson, director of Oxford’s park and recreation department.
“They’ll book programs for the performing arts center and work with the arts council in booking for the center,” Hudson said. “And they’ll be responsible for acquiring grants that are available.”
Hudson said he hoped schools and the rest of the community take advantage of the facility and eagerly awaits the project’s completion.
“The performing arts center is going to be an outstanding facility,” Hudson said.
Star staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.