CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – Mayor Joe Pitts is encouraging the City Council to move forward with the purchase and transformation of the Roxy Theatre into a modern downtown performing arts center.
The Council is expected to vote Thursday on whether to buy the building at 100 Franklin Street from Roxy Productions Inc. The $810,000 purchase would require approval on second reading of an ordinance first passed in December. The lease agreement, which gives the Roxy operational control of the City-owned center and outlines duties and obligations of both parties, has already been approved by resolution.
“The City-sponsored transformation of the Roxy has been envisioned for more than a decade and has been the subject of extensive study, planning and debate,” Mayor Joe Pitts said. “I want City Government to honor its repeated decisions to budget money for this capital project, and to keep the promises made to the community and to The Roxy to purchase this building and construct a new center for the performing arts.”
Mayor Pitts also described the Roxy as “an esteemed part of Clarksville’s history.”
“This project will allow us to preserve and enhance the future of the Roxy,” Mayor Pitts said. “It allows us to provide an entertainment venue that will drive activity and investment in our downtown. It will enhance educational services in the fine arts and add tremendous value to the culture of our community.”
Mayor Pitts points out that the relationship envisioned between The Roxy, a non-profit corporation, and the City is based on a proven model in use for decades in Clarksville-Montgomery County.
“This is much like the relationship between the City and the Customs House Museum and the City and the Ajax Turner Senior Center,” Mayor Pitts said. “In both cases, the City owns the properties, but they are controlled and managed by their own executives and boards of directors.” As is the case with the Roxy Board of Directors, the museum and senior center boards are composed of unpaid citizen volunteers from all sectors of the community.
Under the plan in play for the Roxy, the City would execute a clean-title purchase of the Roxy property, based on a current appraisal of the land and building’s value. The Roxy board would use the proceeds of the sale to settle their building debt, along with other liens and obligations, and have resources to operate in a temporary home during the construction phase.
The City would combine the Roxy property with adjacent tracts already owned by the City to construct the new performing arts center. Discussions are underway about how to incorporate into the new facility the Roxy marquee and the historical facade of the old building. This will be handled as part of the building design, which will include input from the Roxy board and the community.
Roxy Productions Inc. will be the facility’s operator and resident theater company. It will occupy leased office space, performance and rehearsal space, and backstage carpentry and storage space. It will work to book the facility’s events and plan its educational and cultural offerings.
Terms of the lease and usage agreement are a binding contract, with provisions for renewing and revising it at designated intervals. The contract outlines the Roxy’s rent, access and usage privileges. The agreement gives the Roxy the use of the facility for a $1 a year for the first three years, to ensure the company gets off to a strong start in its new home, and then the contract calls for gradually increasing revenue-sharing. The City would retain rights to use the facility on six dates per year.
The Roxy would retain artistic control of its programming, with a basic agreement on prevailing industry and community standards of “reasonable and appropriate” fare for a publically owned facility.
Planning for a new downtown performing arts center began in earnest in 2013, when then-Mayor Kim McMillan and the City Council contracted with Arts Consulting Group to conduct a five-phase feasibility study and evaluation of possible downtown sites. That work concluded that The Roxy site was the best option, in part because the city owned adjacent tracts and because the theater company and its location had been a mainstay of the local arts community since 1983.
The feasibility study also concluded there was an active and interested base of arts consumers in the immediate area, and that more theatrical, comedy, and family programming in downtown Clarksville would be welcomed and supported.
The Arts Consulting Group executive summary recommended building a $35 million venue with a main 500-seat theater, 120-seat flexible Studio Theater, offices and back shop facilities, and a large lobby that could handle meetings and receptions.
Mayor Pitts, who campaigned in 2018 on his support for a downtown performing arts center and kept money for the project in his City budget proposals, said he strongly urges approval of the Roxy purchase.
“Right now, with the County’s Multipurpose Events Center under construction, and several major retail and dining developments announced, our downtown has significant momentum,” Mayor Pitts said. “It has long been understood that the City would provide the other major need in our downtown -- a modern center for the performing arts.”