Suddenly it was all over.
But for years, and especially in recent months, the Daniel Island Performing Arts Center project appeared to be energized by supporters, artists, municipal leaders and developers.
The brainchild of Mary Gould, director of South of Broadway Theatre Company in North Charleston, DIPAC was to be a multipurpose new venue that featured a 400-seat proscenium theater, with balconies and an orchestra pit, available to various local and touring theater companies, plus dance programming, classes and more.
As the project grew in scope and ambition, Gould relinquished her leadership position and a board of directors assumed the reins. The DIPAC team included Betsy Brabham, director of advancement, and enjoyed vocal support from Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg.
“Daniel Island Performing Arts Center will be another great asset to our performing arts community,” Tecklenburg said in a statement. “It will have a significant economic impact and, perhaps even more importantly, provide many opportunities for artists who have chosen to live and work in Charleston.”
Former New York City Ballet dancer and Daniel Island resident Deanna McBrearty was tapped to serve as artistic production director of a planned resident dance program.
In early May, DIPAC, the Charleston Symphony Orchestra and the city of Charleston presented the opera “Tosca” at the Gaillard Center to raise money for the project.
About a month later, Brabham issued a news release announcing that the DIPAC board and advisory committee, and the South of Broadway board, had decided to pull the plug on the new venue.
“The groups have collectively decided to disband the efforts to build a performing arts facility on Daniel Island,” the release stated. “The groups agreed that while a facility on Daniel Island would enhance arts within the community, it would not be prudent to attempt such a large-scale project at this time.”
The release didn’t explain why that decision was made, but in a telephone interview Brabham said construction costs were an impediment.
“After a year of the board studying the launch of full campaign, it became evident that the building couldn’t be built on donations alone,” Brabham said. A few donors and foundations were willing to fund arts programming, but they were reluctant to pay for an expensive brick-and mortar facility, she said.
In 2016, cost estimates for the building were $17 million, but it’s likely that the total expense would have exceeded that figure because of rising construction costs.
Gould said she was surprised and devastated by the decision.
“The groundswell of support that we had been able to generate in the first couple of years was profound, and I had every expectation that this was going to happen,” she said. “There is still a groundswell of support for me and my company, especially the vision I have. I would never say the vision is dead, something I believed in for years and years. This is something that needs to happen for the arts community in Charleston.”
So Gould and her South of Broadway team will seek a new avenue that could lead to a theater venue somewhere in the Lowcountry, she said. Her theater company has devised a five-year strategic plan that includes a new facility. Currently, the theater group is based in a storefront on East Montague Avenue in North Charleston. The strategic plan has support from DIPAC and Gould’s board of directors.
“We have a large, amazing arts community in Charleston and we look forward to watching it grow,” said Ruthie Hille, president of the South of Broadway board, in a statement.
The DIPAC concept was born in 2014, and the facility was to be part of a large mixed-use development in the commercial center of Daniel Island. The design team is headed by the local firm Stubbs Muldrow Herin Architects.
All of funds collected to date were spent on concept development and design, community outreach and some limited programming that included the presentation of “Tosca,” Brabham said.
“So far everybody has been very understanding,” she said.