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Posted on: November 8, 2023

City to Explore Other Opportunities to Showcase Arts Community

Arts Center rendering with text "City to Explore Other Opportunities to Showcase Arts Community&#

During the November 7 special meeting, the City Council unanimously approved a measure signifying the City would not move forward with constructing a Performing Arts Center on the property between the Old Bedford School and the Library. Now, the City is focusing on exploring other avenues to deliver a project that will meet the City’s needs for a visual and performing arts space.  

How did we get here?

Over the past year, City staff and Council members met with architects and construction officials many times to design a Performing Arts Center floor plan that would meet the needs of the community while trying to stay within a $10 million budget. Over time, price estimates increased beyond the budget due to inflation, and area demand for materials and labor despite receiving over 200 qualified bids on the project. In March, the City Council approved a feasibility study to determine if fundraising efforts could bridge the gap between City funds and final construction costs. Unfortunately, the City’s fundraising estimates fell short of covering the remaining amount needed.

What are the next steps?

Rather than continuing to pursue the construction of a Performing Arts Center that does not meet the City’s vision, Bedford is changing course and looking into public-private partnerships and other opportunities in alternative locations that would celebrate and showcase the arts the Bedford community values so much.

Over the next few months, City officials will reach out to developers and businesses to find out what these opportunities could be. Mayor Cogan asked staff to provide an update to Council in March for the Council to discuss the proposed options. An update will be posted on all Bedford Communication channels after this occurs.

What happens to the funds marked for the Performing Arts Center?

In 2017, Bedford residents voted to approve $70 million in bond funds for capital improvements and new facilities. Of that amount, $5.5 million was set aside and allocated for a Performing Arts Center at the Old Bedford School site. This decision was possible due to the ballot language for the bond package that referenced “multi-purpose event facilities.” The measure on the ballot stated, “The issuance of $70,000,000 general obligation bonds for park and recreation facilities improvements (including ball field, aquatic center, and multi-purpose event facilities improvements and other related improvements)."

This $5.5 million and additional American Rescue Plan Act funds (federal dollars given to cities to use at their discretion) that was set aside will be retained by the City until further decisions have been made at future City Council meetings.

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