Facility Planning Advice for PACs (Part 1 of 2)

facility planning advice

Greg Garfield at April groundbreaking.

In April, ground was broken for the Buddy Holly Hall of Performing Arts and Sciences in Lubbock, Texas. Slated to open in early 2020, it will include a 2,200-seat main theater; smaller studio theatre with 425 seats; multipurpose room, bistro and dance center. We plan to cover different aspects of this interesting project in upcoming articles.

But before ground is ever broken for any performing arts center (PAC) project, extensive planning takes place. What factors contribute to successful projects – those that meet deadlines, budgets and objectives? Over the next two weeks, we’ll consider the general topic of PAC planning from the perspective of the developer involved in Buddy Holly Hall; we spoke with Greg Garfield, President of Garfield Public/Private LLC in Dallas.

In Part 1, this week we’ll learn about the work of his firm and its partners, including development services, market studies, community engagement and conceptual design.

Creative Alternatives      

“Our firm has focused exclusively on public or public/private projects for the past 20 years,” says Garfield. These projects include courthouses, government office buildings, schools, parking garages, hotels, arenas and performing arts centers, among other facility types. Customers are typically municipalities, educational institutions, other nonprofits or some combination of these.

Garfield’s firm provides complete development services: initial business planning; selection of architect, engineers, consultants and contractors; negotiating contracts, including operating agreements; financing/fundraising; and oversight of design and construction. A guaranteed maximum price and completion date are provided using turnkey contract methods. Garfield states they’ve always met deadlines and budgets. “We offer a creative alternative to the old design-bid-build-occupy method,” he explains.

Before an architect is hired to create conceptual plans for any PAC, Garfield recommends pre-development strategic analysis, which typically includes a market study and business plan, as well as programming, conceptual design, conceptual estimate and financing and fundraising plan. For PAC market studies and business plans, Garfield engages an outside consultant specializing in this industry.

For Buddy Holly Hall, that consultant was Webb Management Services in New York. “We developed the market study that confirmed the need and opportunity to develop this facility,” explains Duncan Webb, President. His firm also wrote the preliminary business plan that confirmed how the recommended facilities at Buddy Holly Hall should be programmed, operated and financially sustained.

Extensive Research

The market study considers existing facilities and routing patterns for touring national shows that might visit. It recommends seating capacity, capabilities and other programmatic elements. The community’s user groups are surveyed; outreach also includes promoters and other entities that may want to use the building.

“In the initial interviews, we don’t put on any limits or boundaries,” says Garfield. “We ask for the stakeholders’ dreams and aspirations, along with their wants and needs.” The resulting information is distilled and refined into concrete recommendations.

Garfield considers community engagement vital on many levels. “We only want to plan new facilities that will help existing arts groups and established venues in that market,” he remarks. “Successful facilities help everyone. We really believe that old adage: A rising tide raises all ships.”

The market study also includes an activity profile outlining expected programming and average attendance. This information helps create a financial model for the first 5-10 years, showing expected operating revenue, expenses and net income/loss. If a loss is projected, earned revenue will need to be supplemented with fundraising separate from the capital fundraising for the building’s construction.

“A theater consultant and architect are engaged to develop a spatial program and conceptual design, which may also include site identification and analysis, considering maximum economic impact, access and visibility,” explains Garfield. The conceptual design typically includes a building program, site plan, floor plans, elevations, building system narratives and perhaps some renderings. These visual elements can be helpful in generating excitement for the project and jump-starting the fundraising process.

Next week: Garfield discusses budgeting, ownership options and other financial considerations.

[Buddy Holly Hall rendering by Diamond Schmitt Architects, Inc., Parkhill, Smith & Cooper and MWM Architects.]

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