The Aurora Theatre’s expansion in Lawrenceville could include an exterior design that seemingly echoes famous performing arts venues such as the Kennedy Center and Lincoln Center.
City officials unveiled concept design plans for the theatre’s $26 million expansion at the Lawrenceville City Council meeting Monday night. The concept designs show the direction that officials are moving in on the project, although the designs could still change.
“Concepts mean it is an idea; it is the first steps toward finishing the design,” Croft and Associates Program Manager Kip Stokes told the City Council. “By no means is what you’re seeing the final aspect of the project, but it is a good start.”
The 50,000-square-foot facility will have new offices, education area and stages — including a 525-seat main stage that is expected to be one of the largest live performing arts stages in the state. The expansion will be located on the Lawrenceville Square, filling an entire block of Clayton Street between Pike and Crogan Streets.
It will also connect to the existing Aurora facility on East Pike Street and wrap around the city’s parking deck on Crogan Street. Stevens and Wilkinson did the concept design on the facility.
In addition to its main stage, the Aurora expansion will include a Cabaret theater, practice rooms, classes for the Aurora’s education programs as well as Georgia Gwinnett College programs and office space.
“One of the charges from the Aurora Theatre has been to really treat this lot as a campus, so we’re trying to pull in the existing Aurora, the buildings and the existing parking deck structure,” Stevens and Wilkinson Senior Associate and Senior Designer Todd Dolson said.
City officials are showing excitement for what the expansion could bring to downtown Lawrenceville. It is one of several projects taking place in the area. Other projects include the college corridor and the South Lawn Development.
The Aurora Theatre will manage, operate and offer programming for the building under a contract with the city, as they do with the existing facility.
“This exciting project continues the dynamic transformation of the Downtown area,” Mayor Judy Jordan Johnson said in a statement released after the presentation. “Lawrenceville is the heart of Gwinnett and maintains a central area rich with activity for all generations.
“This facility will bring the Arts community together with educational opportunities and all the other amenities that our vibrant community has to offer to create a dynamic core for Gwinnett County.”
Aurora Theatre Co-Founder and Producing Artistic Director Anthony Rodriguez said the new facility will allow the Aurora to continue expanding its programs.
Its big shows — productions on par with “Mamma Mia!” or “Les Miserables” — will be performed on the new main stage, he said. Meanwhile smaller productions, including plays and the annual Christmas Canteen will continue to be performed on the existing facility’s stage.
Outside groups, such as ballet troupes, will also be able to make use of the main stage if there isn’t space for them at other performing venues, such as the Infinite Energy Center, Rodriguez said.
“We are already building and creating partnerships that are going to be helpful in expanding this facility and making sure it’s used every day of the week and, with GGC, 24/7,” he said. “We’ll be able to do things we’ve never been able to do in conjunction with the community and have opportunities to be there.
Construction is expected to begin in early 2019 with a targeted completion date in the middle of 2020. A request for proposals for construction management services has been issued and city officials expect to chose a contractor for the project within the next two months.
Rodriguez said that while the new facility will have several features for different uses, it will also open the opportunity for new artistic endeavours in Lawrenceville.
“We’ll be able to continue to do the classic work that we have done year-in and year-out, plays that people find very recognizable, musicals that everyone knows,” he said. “But beyond that, we now will have the facilities where we can bring in creative teams and work with them in developing new work, new musicals, things that can be original to Lawrenceville.”