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Dec 15, 2015

Richmond CenterStage to be renamed Dominion Arts Center

Richmond CenterStage could become the Dominion Arts Center, if Richmond City Council approves a name change tied to a $5.5 million grant the performing arts center received Tuesday from the Dominion Foundation, the charitable arm of Dominion Resources.

The council has to sign off on such a change because the city has an ownership stake in the facility. A motion to change the name was presented during Monday’s meeting, and it will be subject to a vote during the Jan. 11 meeting.

The money will be paid over 15 years and will be used for upkeep of the block-spanning, multi-venue arts facility on East Grace Street.

“It’s a way to make sure that … everything stays in working order” in the 6-year-old facility, said Jay Smith, a spokesman for Richmond CenterStage.

Since opening in September 2009, the venues in the center have attracted regular use and are starting to show signs of wear. The electronic message board on the marquee needs work, as does one of the elevators, Smith said. “This helps us ensure ongoing, long-term maintenance.”

The facility includes the historic Carpenter Theatre, which was built in 1928 as a movie palace, and remnants of the old Thalhimers department store.

The 1,800-seat theater hosts performances by the Richmond Symphony, the Richmond Ballet and a wide range of entertainers. The former retail space next door was turned into two performance spaces — Rhythm Hall and the Libby S. Gottwald Playhouse — and an education center. It also includes administrative space for the venue, the Richmond Symphony and the Virginia Opera.

The $73.5 million project was built as a public-private partnership between CenterStage, City Council and the office of mayor. It was first proposed in 2001. Work began in 2007, and it opened two years later.

If the City Council approves the name change, the center will begin calling itself Dominion Arts Center on signs and tickets early next year.

Attempts to reach Mayor Dwight C. Jones and City Council President Michelle Mosby were unsuccessful.

Jones’ press secretary, Tammy Hawley, did not respond to telephone or email messages.

City Council spokesman Steve Skinner confirmed the date of the vote.

The grant is the second large gift the Dominion Foundation has made in three years to a prominent local arts venue. In 2012, it donated $2 million to the renovation of what is now known as the Altria Theater. The stage there is now called the Dominion Stage.

Dominion also has donated $4 million in the past eight years to other projects at Richmond CenterStage, including construction, operations and programming.

“Dominion is invested in the cultural and artistic vibrancy of our local communities,” said Thomas F. Farrell II, chairman, president and CEO of Dominion Resources, in the release. “Our grant seeks to strengthen the performing arts by helping sustain the unique and historic Carpenter Theatre and the other venues at the downtown complex. Richmond’s dynamic arts scene is an indispensable ingredient in making our region an attractive place to live and work.”

The announcement generated positive reviews in the local arts community. “This kind of corporate generosity is why we have a great city,” said Jack Berry, executive director of Venture Richmond. “Major companies like to get behind projects that will have a big impact, and CenterStage has proven that it is a remarkable cultural asset with an important role to play in Richmond’s future.”

By ZACHARY REID Richmond Times-Dispatch