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Potential community arts learning center gets design workshop

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Excitement was in the air Monday evening at the design workshop for the community arts learning center in downtown Reidsville. Reidsville recently received a $6,000 level one feasibility grant from the N.C. Arts Council to convert the old McCrory's department store at 225 S. Scales St. into a community arts learning center.

Tammy Spencer, Reidsville's director of economic development, said Jeffrey York, public art/community design director for the N.C. Arts Council, Henry Sanoff, professor emeritus with the School of Architecture and Design at N.C. State University, and Graham Adams, Sanoff's consulting partner and founding president of the Adams Group Architects in Charlotte, were "blown away" by the turnout at Café 99 in downtown Reidsville.

York called the turnout "spectacular." He said he was excited to see the types of ideas that would be generated from the workshop.

"Certain things will be common to all groups, and it will be obvious that those are the things that are important to the community," said York.

The people at the workshop divided themselves into small groups and came up with a floor plan for the community arts learning center and the old theater next door. Each group had the square footage of the buildings and a blank floor plan with different uses of the space such as classrooms, offices, computer studios and an atrium. Donald Gorham, Reidsville's mayor pro tem, said he was impressed by the hard work the groups put into coming up with designs for the buildings.

"It kind of reminds me of an enthusiastic group of teachers at a workshop. Everybody's into it," said Gorham. He said he believes the center will appeal not only to the cities in Rockingham County but also to Triad communities.

"There are probably other small cities that have something like this in mind and need a model to go by," he said.

Sanoff, York and Adams will evaluate the design ideas generated at the workshop, come up with a general architectural plan for the buildings based on the ideas and establish a working budget for the renovations.

"Typically renovation runs $100 to $150 per square foot, so we're looking at $1.5 million just for the main building," said Sanoff. He said the first floor of the old McCrory's Department Store is a good starting point for phase one of the project because any further renovations would exceed a realistic budget.

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