Some may call it tilting at windmills, but I call it trying to amend what was passed six years ago by City Council.
This fall, reporters Garry Kranz and Jack Cooksey have worked on a two-part report about the state of CenterStage, which also includes the newly renovated Landmark Theater.
In 2007, City Council passed an ordinance that established a private, limited liability limited partnership to handle the historic renovations on the Carpenter Theatre. Administrators said the Richmond Performing Arts Center LLLP was needed so that private investors could receive historic tax credits in return for their financial backing. (The same scenario was devised for the Landmark in 2011 under Mayor Dwight Jones — who questioned the lack of transparency on the CenterStage project in 2008, when he was running for his first term.)
We understand the need for the LLLP, but we don't understand the need to keep the records of revenues, expenditures and results of other contracts held by three private entities (RPAC Inc., Richmond Performing Arts Center LLLP and Landmark Theater LLLP) from public review.
And we don't understand why the public can't get a better sense of the financials of this huge complex, which was supported with about $45 million in tax dollars. While there is the nonprofit CenterStage Foundation, its role has been relegated to fundraising, marketing and educational programming. Plus, the Carpenter Theatre and the Landmark Theater are owned by the city. Oddly, we had to wait for individual board members of the private entities — many of whom have full-time, high-powered positions in the corporate community — to give us answers to questions through a CenterStage spokesman. Not one of these private concerns has a paid staffer.
In this issue's installment, Cooksey reviews performing arts centers elsewhere, and finds that far more transparency exists in other cities, especially in Cleveland and Durham.
Our exploration of CenterStage serves as a cautionary tale, especially as we wait for the mayor to officially announce his proposal for city-owned land along the Boulevard and how that plan may tie into financing a baseball stadium.
Pour it On
Brandon Fox and her team of writers have put together a package on Virginia craft beer that will have even the wariest of beer drinkers (myself included) taking a second look. From food pairings to tales from the tanks, this story goes below the foamy collar and delivers in detail. As more craft breweries open and Richmond readies to host the National Beer Expo in July, our story should provide all you need to talk hops.