HILLSBOROUGH- Supporters of the Orange County Cultural Center say Hillsborough’s historic Whitted Building is the perfect place to host art events and performances, but neighbors say they’re not so sure.
Andrea Riley is chair of the OCCC’s Board of Directors. She says her group has been looking for a location for nearly 10 years.
“For the Orange County Cultural Center to exist, we have to have the chance to use this particular space at this particular time,” said Riley. “We have not found any other viable solution.”
But neighbors living on Tryon Street worry that the center’s plan to host performances, conferences, weddings and other events in the Whitted Building will ruin the small-town feel of Hillsborough’s historic district.
Steve Gardner was one of a handful of Tryon Street residents who shared their concerns with the board of county commissioners last week.
“The residents of this neighborhood did not sign up for and could never have envisioned living next door to an event house hosting everything from large conferences to weddings, events that will clog our streets with vehicular traffic, cause unacceptable levels of noise, and require street closures and re-routing and police to manage traffic flow,” said Gardner.
County commissioners agreed last week to set aside $1.5 million to renovate the space for government meetings, but held off on approving a plan that would have guaranteed space for the cultural center.
Instead, the board voted to explore how a broad range of Orange County’s arts organizations could use the space.
“We’re not making this exclusive to the Orange County Cultural Center,” said Bernadette Pelissier. “I think I’ve heard most everybody say it needs to be open to other nonprofits. So we want to engage all the nonprofits related to the arts.”
The board also urged cultural center representatives to reach out to neighbors before bringing their plan for a performance space back for consideration.
The renovations to the Whitted Building will take place over the summer. Commissioners will discuss other uses for the space sometime this fall.