It’ll take a little longer for a new plaza and amphitheater to make its debut as the new community gathering spot in downtown Lexington.
Weather-related delays are pushing back completion of the $3 million project a few months to early fall, too late to put it into significant use until spring as an entertainment venue, town officials said.
The delay allows extra time to develop plans for concerts and other events intended to attract shoppers to the specialty retail hub taking shape, officials said.
“We all have broad strokes of what we want to do,” Town Administrator Britt Poole said.
A few small-scale ideas will be tested this fall to measure how well plans for handling crowds and traffic work, officials said.
The amphitheater is being built on Church Street across from Town Hall. At 900 seats, it is among the largest such venues in the Midlands.
Town leaders have earmarked $130,000 to sponsor gatherings in the coming year at the amphitheater as well as hiring an events coordinator. Some events will be free.
For now, the amphitheater and plaza will be known as the Icehouse after a business that formerly sat on the three-acre site. But it will acquire a new title when naming rights are available.
The project is part of a package of features designed to create buzz about the Main Street area.
“It’s the right direction,” said Brian Nelson, owner of Keg Cowboy microbrewery and restaurant. “Anything that attracts interest is a good thing if they handle it right.”
New merchants already are looking at setting up shop even before the amphitheater opens, Mayor Steve MacDougall said.
“It’s drawing a lot of interest to Main Street,” he said.
The plaza and amphitheater is the successor to a decade-old proposal for a performing arts center downtown.
It’s among a series of improvements paid for mainly by devoting expected property tax growth in the area to the projects for the next 15 years, an arrangement known as tax increment financing. In addition, Town Hall is selling a half-dozen retail buildings acquired for redevelopment.
The site for the plaza and amphitheater adjoins Virginia Hylton Park and the town-owned Palmetto Collegiate Institute meeting center and gardens.
One piece of the package of improvements wanted for downtown is in limbo, however.
A walking path around the nearby Old Mill Pond is on hold after the pond’s dam broke during flooding created by record rains in October.
Town leaders are seeking federal aid to help rebuild the dam after its owners said they need assistance.
It’s uncertain if aid will come, MacDougall said.
Tim Flach: 803-771-8483