MOUNT VERNON — Preliminary plans for the Woodward Opera House in 2010 call for moving the offices of the visitors bureau and expanding ThePlace@The Woodward.
“We have four levels of approval to go through,” said Pat Crow, director of the Knox County Convention and Visitors Bureau, “so these plans are preliminary, not definite.”
In October, the Woodward Development Corp. Board of Trustees began to look at options in response to increasingly tight scheduling at ThePlace@TheWoodward, located 111 S. Main St.
“We have more people requesting ThePlace than we have days in the week to fill,” said Crow. “We are constantly having two groups trying to occupy the building at the same time.”
Some of the groups that routinely book ThePlace include the Dogwood Blossoms, the Mount Vernon Players and Ta Vaci. In addition, attendance at the monthly chautauqua series held there continues to grow.
After meeting with architects for code compliance, said Crow, the one idea that “bubbled to the surface” is that the best way to expand is into the offices of the CVB, located 107 S. Main St. A handicapped accessible restroom is already available, a connector corridor between the two spaces is already in use, and it would be a simple thing to remove some walls. The offices of the CVB would be moved to the second floor of the Woodward Building.
“That would allow us, first of all, to begin that restoration phase [of the Woodward],” said Crow. “We can remodel 3,000 square feet before having to meet requirements for an elevator to be installed.”
Crow said the front part of the current CVB, about 20 to 30 feet, would be retained for display of brochures and as an information center to accommodate traffic off of the street. A stairway would lead to the second floor to the actual CVB offices.
“The other part being considered,” said Crow, “is the CVB doesn’t need 3,000 square feet of space, especially if the CVB entry is downstairs. So we talked about using the second floor as kind of a business co-op.”
Crow said the businesses would pay some rent, would have more than just cubicle space, and could share equipment such as a copier and fax.
“The second floor is really conducive to that type of office environment,” said Crow. “We’re excited about it.”
The area on the first floor not retained by the CVB would be remodeled into rehearsal space and an area for light theater. A thrust stage, a platform extending out from the wall, would be built. The area would not have a sound system.
“It would be small compared to ThePlace, but we have a demand for that,” said Crow. “The end result is more rehearsal space and space to do multiple things at a time.
“I think we are determined to move forward with this, but we do have some hurdles,” he continued. “The hurdles have more to do with the Woodward Building and its historical aspects.”
There are no historical details left to worry about in remodeling the current CVB space, he said, because the space has been remodeled several times by previous owners.
“We feel the funds are there, but we do need a little grant money,” said Crow, adding that the process of applying for grants has begun.
“The good news is, we’re too busy and we need more space at ThePlace,” he said. “I think the impact of ThePlace on downtown is quantum. In my opinion, I think it’s as significant as the impact of the college coming downtown.”
Crow said that on a busy week, 400 to 500 people use ThePlace.