Status of Proposed Greensboro Mirror Arts Center
The Mirror arts center has been proposed by the Greensboro Arts Alliance and Residency (GAAR) to be located on the southwest corner of Breezy Avenue and Hardwick Street. The year ‘round arts center would be for a variety of theatrical, arts and musical performances under the aegis of various local arts organizations. The GAAR has a contract with David Allen, the land owner, to purchase the land for the center.
The center has proposed a 26,000 square foot theatre modeled on the new Globe Theatre in London. The facility would have additional performance, rehearsal, dressing room and storage space. The theatre would seat about 200 people, have a café for 50 people, parking for more than 84 vehicles and large buses, and, of course, rest room facilities.
The total cost of the center, estimated by some to be about $10 million, will apparently be paid for by long-time summer resident Andrew Brown. The architect in charge is Daria Pizzetta of Hugh Hardy’s New York City firm. An engineer and a construction company have also been selected.
The Greensboro Development Review Board (DRB) has approved the proposal and issued a Conditional-Use Permit. All other local and state requirements have been met, including the Act 250 Application, approved by the state on July 1, 2015. The sale of the land to GAAR should soon be completed, with construction to follow.
The Act 250 application review was required, because the GAAR theatre project is considered to be a “commercial purpose project.” The review was by the District 7 Office of the state’s Natural Resources Board (NRB), which is located in St. Johnsbury. Kirsten Sultan is the responsible NRB official there, at 802-751-0126.
Various issues were raised by abutters at the NRB hearings, such as, for example, blasting, ground and well water impact, and appropriateness under Act 250 criteria such as aesthetics and local and community architectural style and, perhaps, the proposed flat roof. To access the Act 250 application details, click on: https://anrweb.vt.gov/ANR/ANR/Act250.aspx
To learn more about Act 250, visit www.nrb.state.vt.us. For more detail, go to the actual permit and findings, as issued by NRB, toward the bottom of the first link. The GAAR proposal is also available at www.mirrorarts.org.
A rendering of the project was on page one of the July 23, 2015 Hardwick Gazette and also on page one of the Wednesday, May 27, 2015 Hardwick Gazette, together with two articles on the project, and in the July 7th Caledonian-Record. There are probably other media reports as well.
I don’t know if it’s a sense of drowning or having been bulldozed, but I am GAAR’ed out.
It dawned on me when I was collecting my thoughts about their awful sign on the Green.
The tent in the center of town for all these years are too many years; the ancillary traffic, debris, noise. Why can’t they pitch their tent on their new property, or lease it if they haven’t consummated their purchase, add a generator and some porta-potties? They will have to drill for water eventually, so why not now? It’s sort of like having a guest overstay their visit. One year to accommodate was plenty. And they encroach and encroach and the rules don’t apply to them (i.e. the banner placement which the SB rejected to hang on the building but now it’s on the tent; the sign on the town green, nonstop balloons). I believe Greensboro has already given them a variance for signage at their new site—even before they have built there! Visual pollution to promote their own cause at the expense of others. I believe they came because Greensboro is ‘bucolic’. Sadly, can they see how they are contaminating ‘bucolic’ while they pursue their own agenda? Theater is great—but we need some faithfulness to the old. We are Greensboro, not Gaarboro.
There are other very successful businesses in town that have integrated themselves into the fabric of our community without intruding so heavily on the rest of us.
Sadly, again my opinion, after having read yesterday’s Hardwick Gazette and seen the architect’s rendering of the theater for the first time, they might be better off using the architect who designed the new Center at Shelburne Museum—it is beautifully integrated into the landscape with perfect, harmonious construction materials. The GAAR theater as it is drawn now is, unfortunately, uninviting, institutional, horribly ugly, alarmingly huge, zit-like.
What would have happened with organic growth of the theater if the $10 million shot of financial fertilizer weren’t available to them?
I ask myself how I can continue to be the best steward of this place that I can be. It is in this spirit that I share this commentary.
I am inclined to agree on the design of this massively horrible looking structure, and GAAR not trying very hard to ‘fit into’ Greensboro – they miss the point that flash and NYC style is NOT why they like Greensboro. More work was done to find the right kind of firehouse to fit the town, as the committee and dept did a good job. However, I made it my mission this year – things have been better since more rules were laid out ahead of time. (About a mountain of stuff, including but not limited to picking up after themselves, and garbage storage and disposal.) It is just like teaching , however. You cannot assume that people will follow the rules, most of which are ‘understood’ as normal, standing practice, rules that are often unwritten and unspoken, things that residents just KNOW. This stuff needs to be taught!! Everyone needs to voice their opinion. I don’t care whose money – public and commercial or not – is paying for this thing. This is our town. If you don’t try to find a balance, we all get the short end of the stick…….
The Mirror Theater is a horrible monstrosity which should not be inflicted upon Greensboro. It is conceived as something that belongs in New York City, not a lovely, small rural town in northern Vermont. Aside from its size and overly large number of seats, this auditorium theater is ugly — it is more suitable to Broadway or 42nd Street, not a quiet cow pasture in this bucolic and restful spot where people have come for over a hundred years to find peace and quiet — for kayaking, sailing, fishing, golf, gardening, tennis, and other quiet occupations of a vacation nature. The producers of GAAR made an initial error of hiring high-end New York architects — an appallingly serious mistake. Why wouldn’t they hire a Vermont architect, or at last someone who knows how to blend into the vernacular of the area? In the drawing shown in the Hardwick Gazette it is obvious that the New York architects don’t understand what they are doing at all! Why make a fake attempt to copy London’s Globe or Swan or Rose theaters? They were built for a specific purpose with the building materials available to them. Take look at England’s Stratford Theater today which produces Shakespeare’s plays all the time — they do so superbly — not fettered to copying some original 16th century structure. I am also surprised and disappointed that the DRB approved this application without expressing, apparently, any concern for the proposed architecture.
“All the world’s a stage…..”
This is a letter in support and praise of the Greensboro Arts Alliance and Residency regarding their projected theater building to be constructed and in use by 2016. The theater is being given to Greensboro thanks to the brilliant, creative vision of Sabra Jones, her son Charles McAteer, and many other interested Vermonters and summer residents. During the last several years, GAAR has already provided Greensboro and a widening surrounding area with many opportunities for artistic expression, local employment, diversion and enjoyment.
For the past 75 years Greensboro has undergone slow but continual change. There is a twice enlarged and much improved club house at Mountain View Country Club, a greatly expanded library, the addition of Fellowship Hall at UCC, a new post office, the creation of the Miller’s Thumb, an extensive enlargement of Willey’s Store, an ice cream business, the introduction of Jasper Hill Cheese, Shawn Hill Brewery, and most recently, a brand new, state-of-the-art Fire House. In the long run these changes might be said to have only enhanced and added to the charms of Greensboro.
Now there is going to be a new addition in the form of a first-rate theater, which may provide a venue for countless old and new artistic ventures such as: local classical and other music programs, local middle school productions, dance performances, Circus Smircus use, as well as the delightful GAAR productions which use a magical blend of professional actors from Vermont and other areas along with many local and summer adults and children. We rejoice at the great gift that GAAR is offering.
The Greensboro Association has created this site to foster constructive and civil discussion among members on various topics which relate to Greensboro. Comments should adhere to these tenets, and members should remember that they should be involved in the processes and procedures which are in place in the Town of Greensboro, including the Select Board and the DRB. Comments posted to this site do not necessarily represent those of the Greensboro Association or of the opinions of many of its diverse members.
I would first like to say that I am supportive of GAAR and its work in Greensboro. Every summer my family and I have enjoyed the plays –especially watching local actors and children take part in fun, diverting, lively productions. When I first heard about the theater project, I was supportive. I was relieved that the Hazendale farm-stand was going to move across the street, that the theater would be set back and near existing tree-lines and that the architecture would be contextual (rustic and barn-like). When I read the recent article in the Gazette and later reviewed the site plans and elevations on the ACT 250 website, I was shocked. The theater is very very large at 26,000 square feet with parking for 80+ cars. The architecture is not at all contextual; but instead looks like a medical or suburban municipal building. I am also concerned that what was once described as a cafe — could morph into a restaurant for 50. However, it is not too late to make positive changes. I am hopeful that GAAR will work with the many people in Greensboro that are expressing valid concerns about the size and architect of this development project. Both summer and full-time residents have access to larger cultural venues and entertainment destinations; they are not in short supply. What are in short supply are wonderful places with natural beauty and long important histories. Once lost, they cannot be replaced.
Just to clarify, the actual footprint of the new theater is 16,000 square feet, not 26,000. The other 10,000 feet make up the second floor of the theater.
Reflections on keeping Greensboro “as it used to be” — or not:
Apparently there is considerable controversy in Greensboro about the new theater planned for the site opposite the new firehouse. This is not surprising. In all societies, there is always a group interested in, and enthusiastic about, trying new things, and a group interested in keeping things “the way they used to be”, and our democratic processes are organized to accommodate and regulate this tension. That being said, there seems to me no need for extreme invective in the discussion.
For myself, I think the design of the theater is very attractive, as it makes a pleasing reference to the classic round barns of New England fame, while at the same time making modern reference to a classic and ages-old theatrical design (it is, however, a fraction of the size of the original Globe, and at least is not an open-air theater, as was the original!). Any of our homes and buildings could also be faulted for not fitting into the surrounding countryside. Does colonial architecture really fit into the landscape, or are we just so used to seeing it that we do not notice the discordance between the architecture and the natural setting?
For those who want to keep Greensboro “as it used to be”, I would ask, “What Greensboro are you referring to?” The history of Greensboro (see the Greensboro Historical Society’s 1990 book “History of Greensboro, the Last Two Hundred Years” by Watson, Hill and Metraux) has been one of continuous change, including the progressive loss of farm land to the construction of vacation homes (including ours), the progressive loss of local jobs on farms, and in lumber mills, granite quarries, and the wool industry, and the addition of new endeavors such as the cheese making at Jasper Hill Farm and the beer making at the Hill Farmstead Brewery. The influx of ‘summer people’ has also supported various forms of entertainment, including the Mountain View Country Club, with its tennis courts, continually enhanced golf course (it used to be the fairways were in cow pastures, the greens were fenced off from the cows, and Campbell Soup cans served for the cups, and if your drive hit a cow, it counted as a do-over!), and social activities at the continually upgraded clubhouse; the Lake Concerts; Summer Music from Greensboro; and the Craftsbury Chamber Players, to mention a few. So my question is: At what point in this continual change and renewal should the change be stopped in order to “keep Greensboro as it used to be”? Which Greensboro should be freeze-framed in time? Would it be the one in existence when you acquired your home? Or would you choose the time in living memory when one had to go to the telephone exchange in a building in town in order to make a phone call? Or would you stop it only after Fairpoint started offering internet connection? Would you stop change before or after the various hotels, B&B’s, restaurants, and cafés began or ceased operation in the town? Or would you go back to the time recorded in Lewis Hill’s wonderful memoir of growing up in Greensboro in the 1930’s (“Fetched-Up Yankee”, 1990, The Globe Pequot Press)? The vision of “Greensboro as it used to be” is, I think, a very individual, evolving, and ill-defined ideal!
It seems to me that life is change, although admittedly at some times change happens more rapidly than at others. We happen to be living in a time of very rapid change in society and population, which many of us find disorienting. But it is a process that is inherent in our current society, and one can look for the good in change or see it all as bad. We used to hear dire warnings about the consequences of letting Circus Smirkus build their camp at the corner of Breezy Avenue and Club House Road, but has anyone noticed any of these consequences? Are there kids running all over the town? Has the traffic generated by the camp impacted anyone any more than the crush of summer people at Willey’s Store? I think the answer to these questions is most likely, “No!” For me, the camp is a wonderful addition to the town and to the children it serves.
So in the same vein, it seems to me that the Greensboro Arts Alliance and Residency (also known as GAAR) has brought, and will continue to bring to Greensboro, a wonderful addition to what Greensboro has to offer. Its shows have been of outstanding quality and have involved both local residents and summer people, including numerous children, in an exciting collaboration with professional actors, to put on an outstanding series of entertaining and thought-provoking theatrical productions. Moreover, the theater will be a fantastic resource for the entire area, being available for various activities including music programs, school events, and extracurricular programs. The inclusion of a café attached to the theater will return to the town a venue for social gathering and convivial meetings; the town has now lost all its pre-existing cafés (and restaurants). So what’s not to like? To me, this theater is a wonderful gift to the town and the surrounding area, and GAAR has proven its creativity and popular success with its wide range of theatrical productions.
Put me in the camp of welcoming exciting and creative change that brings new opportunities to both year-round and summer residents.
Robert J. Twiss
Greensboro summer person