The City of Charleston is moving forward with a $142 million rehab of the Gaillard Auditorium, adding city offices, expanded banquet space, and an improved auditorium. The facility will also get a new name: the Gaillard Center.
"Gaillard Center is an opportunity that is unique in our lifetime — unique, perhaps, in the history of Charleston," says Mayor Joe Riley.
Riley announced a little more than a year ago that an anonymous donor provided $20 million toward the massive endeavor, which will include an extreme makeover outside. The city has since announced a partnership with the College of Charleston and the mayor has highlighted the benefit the venue would provide the local school system.
Deficiencies in the current hall include poor acoustics and an impractical seating arrangement. Preferred designs would turn the fan-shaped auditorium into a U-shaped space, cutting some 900 seats. Riley noted those seats are almost always left unfilled during performances.
Expanded room in the exhibition hall (including a kitchen and restrooms) is expected to generate added revenue from events. Already shopping for a location for permanent office space, the city will build municipal offices to wrap around the auditorium along Anson and George streets. The move is expected to save $750,000 annually that the city spends renting office space downtown.
Half of the expense will be funded by private donations, with the city paying for the rest out of tax money set aside for capital improvements, local hospitality tax collections, federal aid, and borrowing. The mayor says the project will not require a tax increase.
Work is expected to begin in the summer of 2012 and should be completed by August 2014.