Fort Mill Times

Plans for old Fort Mill theater come into view

Members of the town's Arts Commission are reviewing possible floor plans for the project they hope will spark new life into downtown Fort Mill.

The commission recently saw a presentation from architect Charles Slate of AWHS Architects of Greenville, who was hired by the town to draw up preliminary floor plans for inside the vacant theater at 100 Main St. Two of the possible plans include layouts with fixed seating, including some tables and chairs and bar areas. The third possibility is for a flexible space that includes chairs that can be moved in and out of the theater depending on the event being held there.

"I asked a couple of different firms to give us proposals," Town Manager David Hudspeth said.

"Part of what the architect was charged with was to tell us what he thought it would cost."

So far, estimates for the project range from $500,000 to $750,000 to renovate the theater, he said. The town plans to raise the money through private donations and public grants and may use some of the town's hospitality tax revenue on the project. Under state law, funds generated by the hospitality tax, a 2-cent sales tax applied to prepared food and beverages, can only be spent on tourism-related projects.

The town plans to open the theater, which it is leasing from building owner Chip Smith for $1 a year for two years, to the public during Art on Main Saturday, Oct. 11. The potential floor plans and an artist's rendering of the building will be on display, Hudspeth said.

"The goal is to have it sustain itself, to pay the expenses for the building," Hudspeth said. "We see it as an opportunity to promote the town and the downtown."

According to Mayor Danny Funderburk, "It is exciting to see something tangible. This is an opportunity to create a catalyst to revitalize downtown. Most of the successful revitalizations I've looked at include a destination like a downtown arts center."

Funderburk hopes the theater will attract other destinations such as restaurants, coffee shops and ice cream parlors to Fort Mill's downtown.

"If you look at how it typically works, folks like to make an evening of it," he said. "I think it's a real quality of life issue for us to have this in the town limits, to have theater groups and dance troupes in town rather than having to drive to Charlotte."

The Arts Commission will meet again Tuesday, Oct. 7, to begin discussing the possibilities for the theater. So far, the discussions have not gone into much detail other than to figure out some of the challenges the space presents, Commissioner Marcia Buike said.

Under the lease agreement Fort Mill has up to 24 months to determine if the town will pursue a renovation before it reverts back to Smith.