A coalition of arts, business and legal groups is seeking conversion of the Lexington County Courthouse into a center for performances and conferences.
The proposal is the latest attempt to make a 10-year-old dream of a performing arts center happen as part of efforts to revive downtown Lexington.
“It’s a way to bring more people to downtown, making it a place where people want to go instead of passing through,” said County Councilman Ned Tolar, who regularly attends arts performances.
The proposal would mean moving a half dozen judges and staff out of the 75-year-old courthouse, a step that requires council approval.
No price tag for new judicial quarters is known, with the site for it up to council members to decide.
The county hopes to lease the courthouse for a small sum to a nonprofit group that would run the arts and conference center after raising up to $5 million for renovations.
Besides a performance hall, it would include a local museum and areas for weddings and meetings.
The center would join an outdoor amphitheater that town leaders are building as “two bookends” drawing visitors to the specialty retail hub envisioned along Main Street, said Randy Halfacre, a former mayor who is president of the Greater Lexington Chamber of Commerce.
Two performance venues a block apart might not work, some town leaders said.
Making the courthouse an arts center “is probably not the best place for it,” Mayor Steve MacDougall said.
Other sites for an arts center continue to be reviewed, he said.
Tolar is championing the courthouse conversion as a low-cost economic development opportunity whose operation would be similar to the Newberry Opera House 40 miles north.
He will outline the plan to the other eight council members Tuesday.