City to pay utilities for new arts center

MANASSAS — After spending more than $2 million renovating the former Hopkins Candy Factory in Old Town, the city is also going to have to pay for the building’s utilities and maintenance costs when the Center for the Arts moves in later this year, the City Council decided last night.

“Since we’ve already paid for a $2 million project, we’d better go ahead and take care of the first year,” said Councilman Bob Oliver.

The council’s informal decision to pay the costs, estimated at $66,910 for the first year, removes the only obstacle in the way of the city and the center signing a lease agreement.

With the Manassas Museum System’s renovation of the factory expected to finish ahead of schedule in June, the Center for the Arts is looking at moving into the building by August.

For months, the city has been trying to get the Center for the Arts to foot the bill for utilities and maintenance.

A lease agreement sent to the center in October included the costs. But the center assumed it was a typing error, raising objections only after it had realized its mistake in early April.

Sally Lay, the center’s executive director, told the council last night that Center for the Arts simply doesn’t have the money to pay for utilities and maintenance when it moves in.

“We don’t want you to look at this as though we’re not being grateful. We truly are. But our understanding was that we wouldn’t be responsible for utility costs in the beginning,” Lay said.

Dedicated to bringing the arts to the people of Manassas and Prince William County, the Center for the Arts hopes to expand its shows and course offerings once it moves into the former Candy Factory.

Courses ranging from drawing and musical instrument practice to acting lessons will be held in classrooms on the second floor. Performances will be staged on an interchangeable auditorium/theater-in-the-round space on the third floor.

The extra space will allow the center to double its staff from four to eight. The center also will have to furnish and equip the building, according to Robert Maiorana, president of the center’s board of directors.

“We’re only going to have a shell of a building with air conditioning and ducts. And then we’re going to have to put everything in it,” he said.

The center has just begun to kick off a $350,000 capital campaign.

“We’ve brought on a lot of new board members who are enthusiastic about raising money for us,” Maiorana said.

The council will formally vote on the city’s lease agreement with the center in June.

Staff writer Chris Newmarker can be reached at (703)368-3101, Ext. 119.

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