Historic Preservation Commission approves addition to playhouse

First Posted: 1/28/2009

Despite opposition to removing a 50-year-old cherry tree at the Andy Griffith Playhouse to make room to build an addition to the site, the Historic Preservation Commission decided to approve the structure Wednesday night.
The commission unanimously agreed to approve the two-story, 5,000 square-foot building for a certificate of appropriateness, which qualifies the structure as a building that fits into the historic district of Mount Airy. The construction plans presented by the architect, Christopher Price, also met the 18 points of qualification necessary for the certificate.
The new facility is estimated to cost $600,000 and would be the new home for the Andy Griffith Collection, which is housed in the playhouse. It would also include extra space for many of the Surry Arts Council programs and the creation of an Old-time Music Heritage Hall, which the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area recently awarded the arts council $23,000 grant to create. The construction is slated to be finished in time for the building to be open during Mayberry Days 2009, which is Sept. 24-27.
Last week the commission met to discuss whether to approve the addition, but opted to wait a week to review the information and present it again to absent board members.
Approving the construction plans that included removing the cherry tree, and approving the building for the certificate of appropriateness were treated as two separate voting matters by the commission Wednesday.
The majority of the commission agreed to approve the construction plans that included removing the cherry tree, but commission member Barbara Oliver opposed the decision citing the trees removal as unnecessary.
Price, the architect, told the board last week that planning around the tree would be plausible, but costly. Tanya Jones, the executive director of the Surry Arts Council which runs the Playhouse, told the board Wednesday that the most cost effective plan submitted for the site does not include keeping the tree in its place, which has been the source of problems for the Playhouse. She said that not only has the tree reached its maturity, but it has had limbs that have fallen on the Playhouse during ice storms.
We can afford a plan without the tree, but we cannot afford one with the tree, Jones said. If the tree is left the ramp will need to be redesigned. Its not a cost appropriate thing to include the tree.
Price said the removal of the tree will be replaced with multiple trees of the same species to enhance the overall landscaping.
While commission member Danny Dollyhigh said he doesnt like the idea of cutting down a tree for the construction, he realized it was appropriate to build the addition to the Playhouse.
I refer to the expertise and judgment of architect and landscape to replace the tree with other elements, he said.
In approving the building, the commission included a stipulation that the Surry Arts Council must return to the board in the future to approve lighting and signs which are not factored into the $600,000 construction costs.
Following the meeting Commission Chair Mary Fawcett said while the commission wants to preserve trees, it recognized the difficulty the cherry tree would cause to construction.
Despite a week-long wait for a decision, Jones said that the approval for the certificate of appropriateness should keep construction plans on track for the building, which she would like to have a ribbon cutting for during Mayberry Days 2009.
These are necessary hurdles, she said of obtaining the certificate. Im really excited, this should enable us to remain on schedule.
Contact Erin C. Perkins at [email protected] or 719-1952.

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