Mayor rolls out $142 million Gaillard Center vision 

Work on improvements, expansion to begin in 2012

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, renaming the arts venue 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.

Mayor Joe Riley announced a little more than a year ago that an anonymous donor provided $20 million toward the massive endeavor which will include a extreme makeover of the facade. The city had since announced a partnership with the College of Charleston and had floated the idea of municipal office space as an effort to find partnerships and cut the overall cost.

Deficiency in the performance hall includes poor acoustics and an impractical seating arrangement. Preferred designs would turn the fan-shaped auditorium into a U-shaped space, cutting some 900 seats. Riled 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 and the city will be building municipal offices to wrap the auditorium along Anson and George streets that's expected to save $750,000 annually in rent.

Half of the cost will come from 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 take two years.

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