Robinson Center Upgrade Budgeted at $68.6 Million, On Track for 2016

by Luke Jones  on Tuesday, Sep. 24, 2013 2:14 pm  

Details of the proposed renovation and additions to Little Rock's Robinson Center Auditorium were revealed Tuesday at a luncheon hosted at the center.

According to Gretchen Hall, director of the Little Rock Convention & Visitors' Bureau, and other representatives of the project, the work is budgeted at $68.6 million — with $60 million of that being actual building costs — and if plans are on track, will be completed by 2016. The building's size will increase to 138,000 SF from 133,500 SF.

"We are very excited to be able to roll out these schematic plans with our design team," Hall said.

The building is being designed by Polk Stanley Wilcox of Little Rock and Ennead Architects LLP of New York City. Construction will be performed by CDI Contractors of Little Rock.

The work will include:

  • Restoring and renovating the existing 1939 exterior.
  • Re-working audience entrances.
  • Improving performance hall acoustics and seating.
  • Upgrading the loading area.
  • Building an entirely new conference center and grand hall on the north side of the structure.

Audience entrance work will involve building a multi-level lobby around the existing historic lobby with more clear directions. The performance hall will be lowered to overtake the existing conference rooms, which project architects said will augment acoustics, improve visibility and create a more intimate atmosphere.

More: Download the complete renovation presentation (PDF).

Hall noted that the number of seats will actually decrease from 2,600 to 2,120.

The current conference center, in the Robinson's basement, will be moved to a new wing that will overlook the Arkansas River. The new grand ballroom in this wing will be able to accommodate 400-500 people.

"I've always seen the Robinson Auditorium as an anchor to the west because of the Broadway Bridge and I-30," said architect Reese Rowland of Polk Stanley Wilcox. "As beautiful as a building it is, it was built to face the city. The Robinson actually turns its back to the greatest amenity we have, the Arkansas River."

The loading bay, which requires blocking two highway lanes and a bridge, will be replaced with a more efficient setup.



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