Performing Arts, Entertainment and Cultural Venue To Be Considered

Our Arts & Cultural Strategic Planning Committee worked diligently last year to study the arts, cultural and heritage organizations and assets of our community in order to determine the current and potential economic impact of them, assess opportunities for increased collaboration, and develop a plan for sustainability.

The resumes of the nine citizens working on this committee are impressive and the amount of creative and intellectual capital that was voluntarily employed on behalf of our community was astounding.

This committee, headed by volunteer and former IBM executive and management consultant Jane Joseph, put forth three recommendations in their comprehensive 72 page report, which may be found on the Town’s website. The Hilton Head Island Town Council unanimously endorsed these recommendations. One of them is that the town should evaluate the issues and opportunities surrounding the topic of “venue”. Although the question of venue was outside the scope of the committee, it was compelled to include it in their recommendations because of their research and the statistical frequency of the topic.

The level of interest and the questions and opportunities surrounding the matter warrant a thorough public discussion based upon facts.  From a scientific perspective we should begin with the question: Would it be beneficial to Hilton Head Island to participate in the establishment of a comprehensive Arts, Entertainment and Cultural Venue/Campus?

Our hypothesis to this question is: Yes, it would be beneficial. A natural follow up question therefore is:  What level of participation would yield the best return on investment to the Town and its’ citizens? The vetting and ultimate answer to the second question is what will constitute the testing of our hypothesis, which will occur via a soon-to-be-appointed task force augmented by professional support and further public/council discussion. I believe the return may be measured in terms of enhancements to our quality of life as well as economically.

We do have a considerable amount of data from which to draw as a starting point thanks to an in-depth study that has been performed by one of the nation’s foremost arts consultants paid for by a group of independent business executives and arts enthusiasts living on Hilton Head.

This study researches other performing arts venues located within communities similar to ours. While not all prospective municipal projects have a meaningful return on investment, the analysis indicates that an arts, cultural and heritage campus on Hilton Head Island has significant potential. Additionally the large island arts organizations are in critical need of more appropriate and suitably sized facilities to expand their programs and manage their production costs more effectively. For instance, the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra concert performances are sold out shows, and their current venues are not available for the presentation of additional performances. Almost every large arts and cultural organization on the island would benefit.

Retailers, restaurants, recreational services and other local businesses with seasonal revenue challenges would garner a steadier stream of additional income. Other such venues in tourist locations have shown clear evidence of significant revenue impact, not to mention the overall improvement of the community’s image as a premier destination for visitors. If we move forward with the venue/campus, financing will likely come from a variety of sources including local, county, state and potentially federal governments.  Private funding, including an endowment will also be included.

As a developer, I know from experience, that the necessary pieces of a project are rarely assembled in a perfect and straight line. Based upon this experience and what we learned along the way as the aforementioned committee conducted its’ research, Council Member Kim Likins and I recently asked the full Council to support the submittal of an application requesting $30 million funding from the potential Capital Sales Tax Referendum as a placeholder while this issue is more fully vetted. Town Council unanimously approved the submittal.

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