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Name, cost and contractor announced for Forsyth County Performing Art Center

The performing arts center, which has been proposed to be built off Dahlonega Highway in Forsyth County in the coming years, now has an official name, officials say.

At Tuesday’s meeting of the Forsyth County Board of Education, system staff unveiled the PAC’s new name, along with the proposed contractor and cost of building the PAC and the Academies for Creative Education.

In a presentation to the board, Forsyth County Schools Director of Communications Jennifer Caracciolo said that they received over 50 suggestions from the community on what the art center should be named and discussed those suggestions with a group that included board members, system staff and members of the historical society.

Caracciolo said after that discussion, they decided on the name Forsyth County Arts and Learning Center, or FOCAL Center, to honor the goal that they hope the center will achieve in the community —becoming a gathering place for all types of art and learning from around the community and beyond.

“You know there are some really great people in the community that are deceased that have done wonderful things or that are still alive thankfully, that have done some wonderful things too for the arts,” she said. “But the whole vision for the performing arts center is about supporting the entire community and being a focal point for the arts.”

Caracciolo also presented a video rendering showing the inside and outside of the FOCAL Center’s design, which includes a main theater and black box theatre space with seating for 1,800 people, concessions, dressing rooms and storage.

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Renderings of the Forsyth County Arts and Learning Center

Video courtesy of Manley Spangler Smith Architects

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School officials say they hope the center will be a space for all types of art programing, as well as a “learning lab” where students can learn the different aspects of art production.

“Our learning centers and schools are the hub of the community, and so this is going to be the hub of performing arts for our county, and we're very excited about it,” District 1 Board Member Wes McCall said after the video. "Not just for kids to go and perform at, but for other kids to go and learn how to produce a show, work the lights ... this is going to be a learning center for them also."

The FOCAL Center will be located behind the Forsyth County Board of Education building on Dahlonega Highway, adjacent to the three-story “Academy for Creative Education” (ACE) which will house the system’s alternative learning programs — Gateway Academy, Forsyth Academy and Forsyth Virtual Academy — that are currently spread between different school system buildings.

After Caracciolo’s presentation to the board, school system Director of Construction Tom Wening announced to the board that Carroll Daniel Construction Company had been selected as the general contractor for the FOCAL Center and ACE project.

Wening said that five different proposals were judged on 30 factors relating to qualifications and price, and Carroll Daniel’s bid of $55,628,250 was selected.

This project is proposed to be built on land the school system has owned since the late 1990s. But funding for the project will come from the school bond that was approved by voters in May of 2018, which included more than $282 million for new facilities projects.

Wening also stated that unlike other school construction projects, this project must be paid for without Georgia Department of Education Funding, because the FOCAL Center is not an “instructional unit” and the ACE’s instruction is program-based, with state funding reverting back to the traditional schools where those students are enrolled.

Groundbreaking on the FOCAL Center and ACE will take place in November, Wening said.

ACE is proposed to be substantially complete by April 2021 and ready for the fall of the 2021-22 school year, while FOCAL, which has a much more complicated design, is proposed to be substantially complete by the winter of 2021, according to Wening.

All of these proposals were unanimously approved by board members.