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Franklin County firm submits low bid for theater conversion
Rocky Mount wants to remodel a hardware building into a music and performance hall.
Saturday, March 9, 2013
A general contractor based in Franklin County submitted what appeared to be the low bid Friday to Rocky Mount for construction that would transform a vacant building downtown into a performance center.
Price Buildings Inc. submitted a base bid of just under $2.2 million for fully converting the former Lynch Hardware building at 405 Franklin St. into a theater for music and other events. If the town opts to exclude a meeting room and commercial-grade kitchen proposed for the building’s basement, the bid would be $1.85 million .
Seven other general contractors submitted bids, which were opened Friday at the Rocky Mount Municipal Building. The next lowest bid appeared to be one submitted by Thor Inc. of Roanoke, which bid a base price of $2.22 million for the full conversion.
Matt Hankins, Rocky Mount’s assistant town manager, has previously suggested, with caveats, that the conversion would cost about $1.4 million, a figure he clarified Friday that has not included the meeting room and kitchen proposed for the basement.
He said town officials have anticipated that the full conversion would likely cost more than $2 million.
Hunter Greene, an architect with Hill Studio of Roanoke, opened the bids Friday.
On Jan. 14, members of the Rocky Mount Town Council voted 4-2 to approve the final design plans crafted by the architectural firm. The town solicited bids in advertisements placed the weekend of Feb. 1-3.
Hankins said Friday that Greene will review the bids and then the two men will make a recommendation to a performance center committee about how to proceed. Then, the committee will make a recommendation to the full town council, probably during a special meeting later this month.
Mayor Steve Angle, a member of the performance center committee, and Councilman Billie Stockton observed the bid openings Friday.
Angle said he was pleased by the bids submitted.
“I’m really excited about seeing this possibly come to fruition,” Angle said.
Councilmen Bobby Moyer and Bobby Cundiff have opposed the project, expressing concerns about spending taxpayer dollars to risk venturing into the entertainment business.
Rocky Mount is the eastern gateway for The Crooked Road: Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail . Town officials have said a music facility downtown could help encourage some of the tourists traveling along the trail to linger in the town.
As envisioned, the building’s main performance hall would seat about 400 people.
Built in 1946, the 16,000-square-foot building slated for conversion has previously housed an International Harvester dealership, Lynch Hardware and a few small businesses. In November 2011, the town bought the building for $246,750.
International Harvester was a client of celebrated industrial designer Raymond Loewy, whose work for the company included designing prototypes of dealerships such as the one in Rocky Mount.
To date, the council has appropriated $275,000 for the project — a figure that does not include the building’s purchase. About $110,000 of that will go to Hill Studio.
Hankins has suggested that money from foundations or sources such as the Virginia Tobacco Commission could help cover the costs. He said Friday that historic tax credits could be a significant funding source, reimbursing as much as $800,000 of the conversion costs. The town would likely consider a number of financing options to pay for the project, he said, which probably will take about 10 months once construction begins. He said Rocky Mount has a total of about $11 million available in reserve and in investments that could be tapped for the work.
And Hankins said Friday his research suggests that with aggressive event scheduling the facility could be profitable in its first year. He said he will present related numbers to council members at Monday’s meeting, scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. at the Rocky Mount Municipal Building.
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