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Planning for future of Fine Arts Center to begin in '13

By Patrick Kelley
On April 10, 2012


The Fine Arts Center is currently going through the early stages of a process to renovate and expand, or tear down and build anew. 

According to director of campus planning and design Thomas Fulton, a request has gone out to architects to submit letters of interest.  The first phase, advanced planning, will start in 2013.  It takes into account several factors.  Space is at a premium at the FAC, so a conceptual space program for the building will anticipate growth over the next 10 years and adjust the rebuild accordingly.  The first phase includes a careful look at existing projects similar to the FAC project, and a built in community outreach program to give those who live and work at URI a voice in the project.  To pay for the project, an early estimate of $50 million, not including escalation and soft costs, will be required.

The timing of the second phase, project design and construction services, will depend on project financing.  However, this phase will include design and bid services, and updated schematic design services.

When ready, the plans will go before the Rhode Island State Legislature in order to acquire state funding.  If approved, it would go onto a general obligation bond referendum to be accepted or struck down by Rhode Island voters.

According to excerpts from the request for letters of interest, those who hope to win the contract must pass a selection process involving a point system.  Management and design approach is worth up to 20 points.  The respondent's qualifications and staffing is worth up to 25 points, the previous project experience and design talent is worth up to 25 points and references are worth up to 10.  A minimum of 70 points must be scored to qualify for advancement in the selection process.

Built in the 1960's, the FAC was constructed primarily for the music department, which at the time was geared for education majors focusing on music education, according to music department chair Joe Parillo.  Class sizes have expanded from approximately 50 to more modern sizes of 100 to 150 students. 

"The flat roof design causes leaks, and the nonexistent climate control limits the placement of instruments," Parillo said. "Class sizes alone are issue enough."

 The existing building has provided enough space for the arts programs, but its architecture reflects a different era of thinking.  This project will allow an opportunity to architecturally express the present time, and to realize a vision for the arts at URI.

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