Stevens Center Master Plan
Stevens Center Master Plan
The Stevens Center Renovation
Located at 405 West Fourth Street in Winston-Salem, the Stevens Center of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts is the school’s primary performance venue. It’s also home to resident companies such as the Winston-Salem Symphony, Piedmont Opera and the National Black Theatre Festival.
Formerly the Carolina Theatre, a 1929 film and vaudeville house anchoring an 11-story hotel, the Stevens Center was donated to UNCSA in 1980 by Piedmont Publishing, former owner of the Winston-Salem Journal and Sentinel. Throughout its life, the Stevens Center has played a major role in economic development downtown and more recently, it has become the centerpiece of the growing arts district.
Nearly 35 years since its makeover as a teaching facility for UNCSA and a premier performance space, the Stevens Center is long overdue for major renovations. Its façade is dated and in disrepair. Lacking lobby and concession space, comfortable seats (with sufficient leg room), and adequate restrooms, the patron experience is subpar. Accessibility needs must be addressed. The stage should be enlarged and the orchestra pit enhanced. The theater also requires an expansion of backstage areas, dressing rooms and rehearsal space, with additional loading docks.
“The Stevens Center serves as our largest classroom and creative incubator. Like any university laboratory, it must be kept up-to-date with state-of-the-art equipment,” continues Bierman. “Bringing the facility up to modern standards is vital not only to our students, but also to the local economy. A vibrant Stevens Center will stimulate further development downtown and attract new businesses to call Winston-Salem home.”
“Ultimately, the Stevens Center should be the heart of a ‘creative corridor’ that runs through downtown to our campus,” Bierman added. “That’s the vision we share with partners like the Arts Council and the Downtown Winston-Salem Partnership.”
When UNCSA’s 2015-2020 strategic plan identified “Enhancing the Living and Learning Environment” and “Catalyzing Arts-based Community and Economic Development” as initiatives that would propel UNCSA to becoming a leading cultural institution in the South, the revitalization of the Stevens Center came to the fore.
In the spring of 2017, the school engaged Robert A.M. Stern Architects (RAMSA) and DLR Group to prepare a concept master plan for the Stevens Center. From March to June of 2017, the school’s Executive Design Committee and the design team met with groups of faculty, staff, students and members of the Winston-Salem community to discuss the Stevens Center. Feedback from these meetings formed the basis for the recommendations in the master plan.
Concept Master Plan
The preliminary plan lays the groundwork for turning the deteriorating and outdated facility into a world-class performing arts venue, although the actual renovation is still years away. RAMSA estimates a project cost of $35.2 million, and the funds must be raised first. UNCSA will seek to identify funding from a combination of state, city and county sources, in addition to individual donors and foundations. “We can’t count on state funding alone to cover the costs. We’ll only get this done as a public-private partnership,” Chancellor Bierman said.
The school is developing plans to expand and diversify the center’s programming, to attract more people downtown and to Forsyth County.
“There would be a profound ripple effect through increased spending on restaurants, hotels, and parking,” Bierman said. “Our ‘Nutcracker’ performances alone attract more than 15,000 audience members a year, which drives hospitality revenue downtown.”
Wiley Hausam, UNCSA’s new Managing Director of Performance Facilities, is in the process of launching a market study by a leading national firm to learn what’s changed in the market in recent years and what program mix is most attractive to potential ticket buyers. “We very much want to hear from key stakeholders in the community about what they are interested in,” Hausam said.
Currently, the School of the Arts is spending $300,000 of state repair and renovation funds to install netting around the facility’s exterior to ensure the crumbling terra cotta façade does not fall on a patron or pedestrian. Eventually, the terra cotta will be painstakingly refurbished. “We want to restore the historic character and charm of the building,” Bierman noted, “and RAMSA’s plan does that with sensitivity and restraint.”
UNCSA is developing a detailed project timeline with an eye toward minimizing the time the Stevens Center will be closed, which could be up to 18 months. The school has already reached out to other venues and presenting organizations that could accommodate performances and productions during the down time.
Last updated January 31, 2018