Carmel unveils plans for $80M performing arts center: Designs include major orchestra hall laden with state-of-art acoustical design features, plus 500-seat theater

The seats in the new Carmel Performing Arts Center will be designed so music will be acoustically unaffected whether people are sitting in them or not.

The walls and jutting upper-level balconies will be curved so sound waves wrap around the hall, preventing sound from becoming focused in a single spot.

A suspended reflective canopy will be raised or lowered depending on the number and types of instruments being played so reverberation time stays perfect at all times, thus doing away with the need for microphones.

These are but a few of the design features that will go into the city’s 1,600-seat orchestra hall being designed by Indianapolis-based CSO Architects Inc., which recently reverted to its original name from CSO Schenkel Shultz.

Only about a dozen similar orchestra halls exist in the country, said architect Dan Moriarty with CSO, who compared the performing arts center to Carnegie Hall in New York City.

It’ll seat slightly fewer than the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra’s Hilbert Circle Theatre downtown. That one, built as a silent-movie theater, holds about 1,800 patrons.

The Carmel hall is designed solely for music, said Moriarty, whose firm has designed Ball State University’s Sursa Performance Hall and the Indiana Historical Society, which features musical performances throughout the year at its 300-seat Frank and Katrina Basile Theater.

CSO is working with David M. Schwarz Architectural Services Inc. in Washington, D.C. That firm designed the Maddox-Muse Center and the Nancy Lee and Perry R. Bass Performance Hall, both in Fort Worth, Texas.

In addition to design decisions to make the interior acoustically superior, the shell of the building will be dense-likely made from Indiana limestone-to keep outside noise outside. Larger ductwork in the walls will allow air to flow in complete silence.

Patterned after the Villa Rotonda in Vicenza, Italy, the hall will be octagonal, with Palladian windows and columns spanning the exterior. It will eventually become the permanent home of the 32-year-old Carmel Symphony Orchestra, which now travels around through local high schools.

“We are really excited about having a permanent place to play,” said Alan Davis, executive director of the symphony. “It will mark a major milestone in the history of the orchestra.”

The hall will become part of Carmel’s City Center and is being built in tandem with a 500-seat staged performance theater being designed by Pedcor Design Group, a unit of Pedcor Development.

“This has been a very exciting experience for us,” said Steve Sturz, president of Pedcor Design Group, of the chance to build the theater, which is part of a mixeduse residential, retail and office project.

Pedcor Design has developed theaters in high schools and universities, but nothing on this scale, Sturz said. “This is quite honestly a fairly new thing for me.”

The group is now working on the interior design, designing the layout for the right acoustics for live theater, which is different from that for an orchestra performance.

Patterned after the traditional architectural style of the surrounding city center Pedcor is developing, the challenge is to create a place where people can live amid the comings and goings of music and theater patrons, plus those who will work in the area and come to shop.

Multi-story parking will be segregated for those who live in the village, for those who work there, and for those visiting.

“We want to be sure if there’s a performance going on, that someone who lives there can get home with their groceries,” Sturz said. “We’re all learning a lot. There are some adventures on a dayto-day basis.”

Together, the orchestra hall and theater are an $80 million project long planned by Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard, who said he expects to draw music lovers and theater goers from beyond Carmel’s borders.

“There’s been criticism that Carmel does not contribute to Indianapolis,” Brainard said. “This will correct that.”

The city will own the building, but lease it for 100 years to an as-yet-unnamed notfor-profit. Ground breaking is expected to take place at the end of this year, with completion slated for fall 2010.

The $80 million is being funded with revenue from the tax-increment financing district created nearly 10 years ago. Property taxes generated by new development within TIFs go toward financing future growth. Brainard needs another $50 million to come from private donations.

At least some of that will come from the Carmel Arts Council, said Doreen Squire Ficara, executive director of the council.

Originally from England, Ficara, 80, has actively led the council since 1994, a year after its inception.

The council is working to attract naming rights for some portion of the interior and make a contribution to the center’s overall funding needs in return, said Ficara, whose council stages the Young Performers Showcase annually.

Calling herself too busy to worry about being old, Ficara plans to work closely

with the city and Pedcor to get others to

help fund the center she said will make Carmel’s downtown a hot destination. “I just hope I don’t get too old before it happens,” she said.

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