Linking literacy, arts – Uptown site selected

By Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Plans to wed arts and literacy in a new $42.5 million Children’s Learning Center have kicked into gear with the launch of a $12 million endowment campaign, selection of a site and naming of a campaign chairman and project architects.

Ken Lewis, president and chief operating officer of Bank of America, will chair the endowment campaign, which already has landed $3 million in pledges.

That includes $5 million from Bank of America executives to name the center for Joe Martin, a senior vice president for the bank and special adviser to its chairman, Hugh McColl Jr.

The 113,000-square-foot center, a joint venture of the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County and the Children’s Theatre of Charlotte, will be built on a block bounded by Sixth, Seventh and Brevard streets and the proposed trolley line that would run parallel to Brevard and College streets – part of an emerging uptown cultural district.

The block, worth an estimated $3.5 million, was donated by the county.

The New York firm of Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates and the Charlotte firm of Gantt Huberman Architects will design the center, which will be funded with $27 million in bonds approved by county voters a year ago.

Developing the project’s concept will be New York multi-media firm Edwin Schlossberg Inc., headed by the husband of Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, daughter of President John F. Kennedy.

The project will combine theater and library resources with technology to engage young people in the arts and help them learn how to think.

It will include a technology center, early childhood reading center, numerous stages and areas for telling stories, youth libraries, classrooms and a craft shop.

Groundbreaking is scheduled for January 2002, with the center scheduled to open in the late fall of 2003.

The Children’s Theatre aims to raise $10 million in the joint endowment campaign, and the library aims to raise $2 million. Both groups will work together to develop programming for the new center, which will be owned by the library.

Lauren Batten of the Charlotte fundraising firm Vandever Batten is advising the endowment campaign.

The emerging uptown cultural district also includes the Main Library, Discovery Place, Museum of the New South, Afro-American Cultural Center, Spirit Square, Blumenthal Performing Arts Center and Mint Museum of Craft + Design.

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