A historic theater is fighting a plan for a new courthouse in Georgia’s second-largest city #historic #theater #fighting #plan #courthouse #Georgias #secondlargest #city

COLUMBUS, Ga. (AP) — A historic theater is fighting a plan for Georgia’s second-largest city to build a new courthouse, saying the new tower could harm the theater’s building and programming.

The Springer Opera House is collecting signatures on a petition asking the consolidated city-county government of Columbus to rethink its plan for a courthouse seven or eight stories tall and directly across the street from the 1871 building.

“Rather than rushing into construction without a thoughtful, coherent plan that takes the neighboring urban environment into consideration, it is essential that the city press ‘pause,’ invite the neighboring Uptown stakeholders into the process, and devise a plan with an eye toward both the past and the future,” Springer Executive Director Danielle Varner wrote in an online petition that began collecting signatures on Nov. 14. More than 1,300 people had signed as of Friday.

Mayor Skip Henderson denies the plan would hurt the Springer, which is designated as Georgia’s state theater.

“We would never build anything in that spot that would subtract from the beauty in our downtown area,” Henderson told WTVM-TV.

Columbus is moving out of the 12-story Government Center that has hosted city-county government and courtrooms since 1973, saying it’s obsolete and decaying. City hall has moved to a building purchased elsewhere in downtown. New courtrooms for the city and Muscogee County are planned for the current site, which occupies an entire block opposite the Springer. The current tower would be demolished.

Originally, the new courthouse was going to be built in the middle of the block, preserving a landscaped plaza nearest the theater. But that plan is projected to cost $235 million, about $50 million more than the budget anticipated when Columbus voters approved the project in a sales tax referendum, the Ledger-Enquirer of Columbus has reported.

The new plan calls for a building closer to the Springer, preserving two existing low-rise wings. The building would be seven or eight stories and cost between $198 million and $205 million.

Varner has said she fears construction would damage the historic building and drive away patrons. Plans would also decrease on-street parking and the Springer would often be in the new building’s shadow.

Henderson said designers can avoid damaging the theater.

“They’ve also changed the way they’re going to put the footings in. They won’t use a jackhammer, they’ll use an auger to minimize vibrations,” Henderson said.

He promised to meet with theater leaders and get their input.

“It may not be possible for us to solve every single issue, but if we work together, we’re going to be able to make it work out,” Henderson said.

A substantial redesign of the latest plan would likely add to the cost, however. Construction was supposed to begin around Jan. 1. The city has already sold bonds to borrow $150 million, with that money currently parked in a bank account.


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