UNCSA selects Jenkins Peer Architects and Steinberg Hart as design team for Phase 2 of Stevens Center renovation

UNCSA has announced the selection of Jenkins Peer Architects (JPA), based in Charlotte, and Steinberg Hart, based in Los Angeles, as the design team for Phase 2 of the Stevens Center renovation. This next and final phase will complete the comprehensive renovation of the beloved performing arts center and learning laboratory, preserving its legacy as an anchor for the arts in the Triad, and transforming it into a world-class venue for audiences and students of today and into the future.

The design team was selected following a nationwide search and approved by the UNCSA Board of Trustees at the March 8 meeting.

"We are thrilled to welcome JPA to the UNCSA team as we embark on Phase 2 of the Stevens Center renovation project, and to continue our already successful work with Steinberg Hart," said Chancellor Brian Cole. "This team’s expertise in architectural design and commitment to innovation and community align perfectly with our vision for the future of the Stevens Center as a hub for artistic excellence, a training ground for the artists of tomorrow, and catalyst for arts and entertainment in the Triad community."

Conceptual rendering of the Stevens Center Lobby, Phase 1. Little Diversified Architectural Consulting/UNC School of the Arts

Conceptual rendering of the Stevens Center Lobby, Phase 1. Little Diversified Architectural Consulting/UNC School of the Arts

JPA, which will serve as the architect of record, is known for its forward-thinking approach and sustainable design practices, as well as a focus on building community, with a proven track record in creating dynamic performing arts venues that inspire creativity and collaboration. With a portfolio that includes a focus on campus architecture, providing creative design solutions to college and universities throughout the Carolinas, JPA brings a wealth of experience to the Stevens Center renovation project including Robinson Hall Performing Arts Center at UNC Charlotte, Cultural Arts Building at UNC Wilmington and the renovation of Thompson Theater at NC State University.

Steinberg Hart will continue their work as the design architect for the Stevens Center project, bringing a national perspective and related experience including the restored and reinvigorated performance venue for the Manhattan School of Music in New York; the Cain Center for the Arts in Cornelius, N.C. (with C Design); ImaginOn: The Joe & Joan Martin Center, which has served as a national model for integrating literacy, education, and the performing arts in downtown Charlotte; the iconic Pablo Center at the Confluence for the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire; and the Francis Marion University Performing Arts Center, an artistic hub for a growing downtown Florence, South Carolina, cultural district. Steinberg Hart received the American Institute of Architects (AIA) California Firm of the Year Award in 2023, AIA’s highest honor.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to partner with UNCSA and Steinberg Hart for the comprehensive renovation of the Stevens Center,” said JPA principal Benjamin Benson. “Building on the planning started in Phase 1, this phase will provide the transformative interior renovation that allows the Stevens Center to be an innovative, modern teaching facility as well as a cultural destination for Winston-Salem and beyond. As a native of the Triad, I could not be more excited about returning this gem to its place of prominence for the UNCSA community.”

Conceptual rendering of the Stevens Center Lobby, Phase 1. Little Diversified Architectural Consulting/UNC School of the Arts

Conceptual rendering of the Stevens Center Lobby, Phase 1. Little Diversified Architectural Consulting/UNC School of the Arts

“We are delighted that the UNC School of the Arts has been awarded the necessary funds to create a reimagined theater and that they have selected Steinberg Hart to continue our design efforts at the Stevens Center,” said Delia Nevola, Steinberg Hart managing principal, New York. “We look forward to our partnership with Jenkins Peer Architects in actively engaging with the university and the community to revitalize a teaching venue necessary to the UNCSA mission and build on a history of theater for all in the community.”

JPA and Steinberg Hart will help determine the strategy to maximize the $51 million appropriation in the current North Carolina state budget, approved in October 2023, for Phase 2, which will complete the Stevens Center renovation. Phase 2 will include a comprehensive transformation of the audience chamber, including enhancements to seating and the stage, as well as a reconfigured balcony with improved sightlines. Technological improvements will allow students and partner organizations to work with state-of-the-art equipment that meets current industry standards.

More about the renovation

Construction for Phase 1 of the Stevens Center renovation is currently underway and will include a significant redesign of the lobby that will create a more expansive, transformative experience for patrons and bring the Stevens Center in line with modern theaters of today, while making efforts to retain the 1929 building’s historic character. The lobby, which was initially designed to accommodate the needs of the building’s original iteration as a movie theater and adapted for the performing arts in 1983, will be redesigned to create a more organic and fluid entry for audiences and visitors as well as increase accessibility and amenities. Improvements focused on patron comfort, such as renovated restrooms and updated concession spaces, will also be included.

Phase 1 will also include critical repairs to the exterior of the building, including replacing the roof and making repairs to the brick exterior, terra-cotta façade and windows, and improvements to back-of-house spaces including the dressing rooms and green room.

Interior shots of the theatre inside the Stevens Center, a former silent movie theater and neoclassical treasure / Photo: J. Sinclair Photography

Interior images of the theatre inside the Stevens Center, a former silent movie theater and neoclassical treasure taken in 2012 / Photo: J. Sinclair Photography

UNCSA has received a total of $80.8 million in North Carolina state appropriations to help fund the comprehensive renovation of the building. The university will continue to pursue private funding for the renovation as well as to provide long-term support for programming and building maintenance.

The Stevens Center closed for renovations in November 2023 and will remain closed throughout the comprehensive renovation. While the renovation is expected to take at least three years, a more exact timeline for the length of the renovation and estimated building reopening will be determined following the completion of the design and planning stages of Phase 2, expected to take about one year. Construction for Phase 2 is estimated to begin in fall 2025.

Follow the Stevens Center renovation at uncsa.edu/stevens.

About the Stevens Center

The historic Stevens Center serves as the largest learning laboratory at UNCSA, an economic driver for downtown Winston-Salem, and a cultural destination for residents and visitors. Originally a 1929 silent movie theater, the Stevens Center is a neoclassical building that was restored and reopened in 1983 with a redesigned stage and backstage that was able to house Broadway-scale live performances of music, theater, dance and opera. 

Located in downtown Winston-Salem, the 1,380-seat theater is the primary performance space for the University of North Carolina School of the Arts as well as for the Winston-Salem Symphony, Piedmont Opera, International Black Theatre Festival, and several other local arts organizations.

The Stevens Center has had a tremendous impact — locally as an economic catalyst for downtown development, regionally as a cultural anchor since the 1930s, and nationally as the launching pad for the careers of countless actors, dancers, technicians, musicians, and others on stage and behind the scenes.

Once the Carolina Theatre, the facility was renamed for theater producer Roger L. Stevens upon its initial renovation and was reopened April 22-24, 1983, with a star-studded gala featuring the UNCSA Symphony Orchestra with Leonard Bernstein conducting and Isaac Stern as soloist, and Gregory Peck as the master of ceremonies. Guests in attendance included Agnes de Mille, Cliff Robertson, N.C. Gov. James B. Hunt, President and Mrs. Gerald Ford, and former First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson.

The Stevens Center has played host to a range of notable events including the world premieres of Neil Simon’s “Lost in Yonkers,” winner of a Pulitzer Prize and four Tony Awards, and “Jake’s Women,” a 19-performance sellout starring Alan Alda. The UNCSA Presents series launched in 2018 brought Broadway back to Winston-Salem with “Kinky Boots” followed by “Once,” as well as performances by Kathy Mattea, Flor de Toloache, Steve Earle and the Dukes, Mavis Staples, the Del McCoury Band, Josh Ritter and more as part of the American Music Series.

Other performances throughout the theater’s history have included Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “State Fair,” Victor Borge, the Smothers Brothers, STOMP, Riders In The Sky, the Vienna Choir Boys, Béla Fleck, The Magic School Bus, Carol Channing and Rita Moreno, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” Alison Krauss, the 35th Anniversary Reunion of “The Andy Griffith Show,” Gordon Lightfoot, Tony Bennett, the filming of Chris Daughtry’s music video “September” and a critical scene in the 1987 film “The Bedroom Window.” In its days as the Carolina Theatre, the venue even played host to “The King,” Elvis Presley, in 1956. Since 1983, the Stevens Center has been the home of UNCSA’s beloved production of “The Nutcracker,” which will return when the building reopens after the renovation is completed.

About Jenkins Peer Architects

Recognized as the AIA North Carolina and AIA Charlotte Firm of the Year in 2021, Jenkins Peer Architects(J•PA) has maintained a focus on campus architecture for over 45 years, providing creative design solutions to college and universities throughout the Carolinas. Through their work on 11 UNC System campuses, J•PA has developed a keen understanding of the reporting and documentation requirements of the State Construction Office. Those projects represent a mix of new construction and renovated facilities, with a focus on revitalizing some of their clients’ most treasured campus assets including centers for performing arts, student life and academics.

About Steinberg Hart

Steinberg Hart is an international architecture, interiors and planning firm grounded in core values of design, relationships and change, resulting in tangible, memorable and impactful architecture. Centered around design, teams across seven offices combine firmwide expertise with intimate local knowledge, creating authentic and innovative designs that challenge norms and resonate with the communities they serve. For nearly 70 years, Steinberg Hart has shaped environments and created inspiring places that build community, enhance business, support learning and connect people with place. This includes over 280 performing arts facilities designed and delivered nationwide. Steinberg Hart is known for innovation in design thinking and building technologies that help clients realize the full potential of their projects. To learn more, visit https://www.steinberghart.com/.

UNCSA Performance Information

During the time the Stevens Center is closed for renovation, UNCSA is presenting events normally held there in venues on campus, throughout Winston-Salem and at High Point Theatre. The UNCSA Box Office is temporarily located at Watson Hall on the UNCSA campus, 1533 S. Main St. The Box Office is maintaining its current operating hours, Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the contact phone number remains the same, 336-721-1945. For more about the UNCSA performance season, visit https://www.uncsa.edu/performances.

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March 28, 2024