Town, art center search for new home

Pineville’s small-but-growing arts community could be displaced soon, and town leaders are scrambling to find a solution.

The Civic and Cultural Arts Center of Pineville, currently located along Pineville’s historic Main Street, opened its doors in 2008 under executive director Lee Baumgarten’s vision of being an artistic and cultural crossroads in the small community. Now, the Mecklenburg County Landmarks Commission, which has rented the Main Street space to CCAC for minimal rent, has an offer from an antique furniture store to buy the space, leaving CCAC without a home.

“I think we need to move pretty quickly because there are so many things in play here that we have absolutely no control over. (The Landmarks Commission) is negotiating with their potential buyer right now,” George Fowler, Pineville’s interim mayor, said. “CCAC is paying month to month. That’s the urgency. They could tell them a new owner is coming at any point.”

The Landmarks Commission buys buildings in the county for historic purposes, Fowler said, and then sells the space with deep restrictions. The building can never be torn down and the exterior can never be changed – important restrictions for Pineville leaders to hold up the integrity of downtown.

Currently, CCAC is not connected with the town except through some funding. The town gave the nonprofit, which is a volunteer-based
organization created to provide access for the arts for all ages, about $20,000 last year to help sponsor educational programs, and a study/business proposal of the center’s functions. That study, which was finalized and released last month, highlighted weaknesses and strengths of CCAC, and proposed possible solutions to challenges it is or could be facing. While CCAC has a strong artistic reputation throughout the region, especially in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, the study identified the nonprofit is limited in space for additional classes, is lacking in administrative personnel and in result, also is lacking in routine open hours and has no representation at the town level, such as a cultural director to be the liaison between the town and the nonprofit.

That’s why town leaders are eager to bring more support on their end to the center and help grow CCAC to become Pineville’s go-to arts center, which is currently lacking in town initiatives. Landmarks Commission has given the town opportunity to buy the Main Street space for CCAC’s permanent location, but town council opted to seek another permanent location that also would provide space for expansion.

“I think Lee (Baumgarten) will agree that what (CCAC) needs is stability. They need a full-time permanent location. The facility they are using right now is not adequate in size,” councilman David Phillips said at a recent town meeting. “If we want them to continue to get better, they need a bigger facility.”

“As we expand it, we are going to have to bring people in that have all elements of this,” councilman Les Gladden added. “We’re going to have to look into the near future for a much larger space. There are a lot more activities that could fall under that cultural arts piece if we had the space.”

Councilmembers also expressed hopes that CCAC could one day be the home of a town museum.

But before leaders can work out future details and plans, they first have to find a new space. And with town facilities such as two vacant homes on Dover Street, the old police station or the potential of renting or buying other space on Main Street, town staff and leaders have a lot of decision-making ahead.

“How the growth has happened over the past four years has been exponential, and that’s just doing the same thing. But with more educational initiatives, space for administration…” CCAC can’t lose momentum, Baumgarten said to council about planning for the future. “Once you’ve lost that momentum, you lose the following and the support.”


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