A proposed Arts and Innovation Center, which could possibly house museum and classroom space, along with some innovative education programs and arts-related retail space, could become a reality if the two entities can sign a memorandum of understanding. The elements were outlined in a concept paper, written by Dr. Michael Odell, associate vice president for sponsored research and director of federal relations at UT Tyler.
The city-owned Lindsey building constructed in 1955 at the corner of Elm Street and South Broadway Avenue is the venue under consideration for the possible Arts and Innovation Center. The building has been vacant since 1986, and was known as the Petroleum Building when it opened in 1956, according to information from the Smith County Historical Society. The building also housed the Hurwitz Man Shop.
Tentative plans call for the city to spend $2.5 million, in secured written pledges for required private capital funding, to renovate the first two floors of the eight-floor structure and bring the rest of the building up to current building codes. Renovation plans also include the exterior, elevator and mechanical systems, according to a draft copy of the memorandum dated May 15, 2012.
The city also will spend, according to the proposed outline, $50,000 per year in funding for operations from the seven percent hotel occupancy tax collections, which the city already has budgeted, City Manager Mark McDaniel said.
The University will lease the building for $4,166 per month for an initial term of 10 years.
“No taxpayer funds will be used. If we can’t get the private funding, the deal with UT Tyler is off,” McDaniel said.
Susan Guthrie, managing director of external relations for the city, said downtown’s Liberty Theater, which was renovated with $1.2 million in private funds, was a similar project.
The Tyler Morning Telegraph submitted a request to the city of Tyler under the Texas Public Information Act in September to obtain a draft copy of the memorandum of understanding, along with copies of engineering reports and other documents, such as the concept paper, generated between the city and UT Tyler.
After a ruling from the Texas Attorney General’s Office that the information was subject to public disclosure, the city released it to the newspaper earlier this month.
City leaders are very cautious about any possible agreement with UT Tyler, and said that there is no timetable on plans to sign an MOU. But McDaniel expressed optimism during a recent interview that the two entities could come to a decision about the proposed Arts Center.
“We are encouraged and very positive about something coming together and we are working further on our goals of creating this,” McDaniel said. He added the University of Texas has several requirements and a process to work through before they give approval for an MOU to be signed with the city. The University’s Board of Regents also must approve any possible MOU, McDaniel said.
He stressed that the concept paper is only a list of possibilities for the Arts Center, and nothing has been decided.
Dr. Randall Powell, UT Tyler vice president for business affairs, said in a statement that the city and the University have discussed working together to “revitalize downtown Tyler and the role the Ingenuity Center might play in such efforts.”
According to the MOU, the University may terminate the agreement without further option if the city does not secure the necessary private funding.
The first two floors of the Lindsey building will be dedicated to public museum and art programming and the city will appoint an advisory board to provide guidance and recommendations for this programming, according to information received from the city.
An Arts and Innovation Center would fit in with the goal of Tyler 21 and the city’s Industry and Growth Initiative, which includes a downtown master plan that provides recommendations to create a downtown business, arts and culture district, according to the concept paper.
“To have a vibrant downtown, a university presence downtown is one of the strategies,” McDaniel said. “A citizen advisory board would give advice about what to include,” he said.
Tyler 21, which was adopted in 2007, was created based on a scientific survey of Tyler residents, Ms. Guthrie said. Among the top 10 issues important to residents is creating a robust and vibrant downtown, she said.
The city and UT Tyler began talking about a possible partnership in the spring, he said. The Tyler Economic Development Council also wants to attract a vibrant downtown, Ms. Guthrie said.
The possible creation of an Arts and Innovation Center downtown will have no effect on plans for a proposed meeting and conference center in Tyler, with a privately-owned full-service hotel, McDaniel said. He added that the city is working toward the creation of a conference center, and that two-thirds of the funding for that project would come from private sources and one-third of that funding would come from the city.