County government officials said they are still committed to bringing a cultural and performing arts facility to the Courthouse neighborhood, but admitted it may not happen anytime soon.
“We’ve had a concept for a performing arts center in Courthouse for many years,” said County Board Chairman Jay Fisette. “It still remains in the plans, but it’s a challenge because of capitol costs.”
More than a dozen representatives of the Arlington Citizens for the Arts came to last week’s County Board meeting to a deliver a petition with 300 signatures, demanding the board move forward on funding a countywide complex.
“The time is now to stop talking and start building,” said Paul LeValley, a member of the organization. “Arlington is a world-class community and deserves a world-class commitment to the arts and culture.”
In 1994 Arlington’s Arts Commission described the county’s cultural facilities as “inadequate,” LeValley said and the situation has yet to improve.
Arlington receives $34 million in economic activity from the arts every year, but is in jeopardy of losing that revenue if they cannot provide groups with better facilities, LeValley said.
Because of the county’s ongoing commitments, including building a recreation and sports facility on the North Tract property, redeveloping Arlington Mill and funding Metro, government resources for an arts center are limited at this time, officials said.
“I don’t want to mislead people, it will be a challenge to achieve a cultural center,” County Manager Ron Carlee said.
The county would like to forge a partnership with a private company to develop Courthouse Plaza, which would include an arts complex in exchange for greater building density.
“It is clear to me over the past two decades that [a countywide center] is a missing piece of Arlington’s arts and cultural structure,” Carlee said.
Carlee said one of his “most significant disappointments” as a county manager was failing to get a cultural facility approved as part of Pentagon Fashion Center.
While supportive of building an arts facility, board member Walter Tejada urged the county to also find funding for a multi-cultural center.