Work on cultural arts building expected to be finished by March

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Construction and renovation at The Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts is on pace to be finished by March 2006 said Betsy Brothers, president of the Center, at a Woman’s Club of Suffolk meeting Tuesday afternoon.

Brothers has been closely involved in each step of the seven-year long project, which has totaled $20 million in construction, renovation, and repair to the old Suffolk High School building.

Brothers praised the strong relationship between public and private sectors that have made the project possible despite the estimated budget having grown by $6.5 million in the last three years.

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&uot;The economic benefits of this to Suffolk will hopefully be far-reaching and actually they already are,&uot; Brothers said.

&uot;When you look at property listings for the downtown area, and it already says, ‘two blocks from the Suffolk Cultural Arts Center’, you know this is having a good effect.&uot;

$4.5 million has been raised from private sources, Brothers said. Those sources include foundations, grants, companies, but mostly individuals and small organizations and clubs.

The Woman’s Club presented a monetary donation during the meeting Tuesday. This is in addition to members selling a series of replicas of historic Suffolk buildings.

A replica of the now 50-year old Lipton plant is the newest piece of the series; and the money raised is going to the Center.

The first floor and basement will include music, technology, photo, clay and dance studios, a seniors’ center, a ballroom and banquet hall, a gift shop with artisans’ work, and an upscale restaurant which will include a caf\u00E9 and bar.

The second floor houses the Center’s 550-seat theatre and everything that goes along with it, such as rooms to build sets, wardrobe and dressing rooms, and meeting rooms.

Also on the second floor will be art galleries, parlors, and a historic 1920’s-era classroom.

The top floor will have administrative offices, Suffolk’s Parks and Recreation Department, a board room, more art studios and a rehearsal theatre.

&uot;This will be a place that can light a spark in young peoples’ minds,&uot; Brothers said.

The Center, she hopes, will be a big change in the quality of life in Suffolk, and will become a valuable, positive asset for young people especially.

When the project was just getting off the ground, Brothers described bringing the first architects into the old high school in Sept. 1998.

&uot;We went in the building and many, many pigeons were living there, and what pigeons leave behind was all over the place.

&uot;A lady with the group got flea bits.

It was horrific.&uot;

Even with seven years worth of planning, architects, renovation and construction, Brothers, a 1958 graduate of Suffolk High School, said &uot;for those of you that went to Suffolk High School, you will walk in this building and know immediately that you’re right back in the high school.&uot;

Events, such as the Mayor’s Ball on April 28, are already slated for the Center; with the official grand opening expected in September, according to Brothers.