The City of Lawrenceville has been gearing up to stage its downtown area as a cultural, educational and entertainment attraction for the entire county.
Last year, city council approved a $31 million project for a Performing Arts Center that will serve as an expansion of the Aurora Theater and provide classrooms and educational spaces for Georgia Gwinnett College.
“This new facility is a collision of ideas, education, entertainment and culture, all within a civic space that is focused on the arts. This destination will continue the mayor and council’s vision of creating a space for a downtown area for all of that to happen,” Lawrenceville’s City Manager Chuck Warbington said.
People like Morsberger and former Mayor Sikes were instrumental in securing a unique partnership between the city, private developers and with the Aurora Theater, a nonprofit entity. With this partnership underway, they purchased the First Methodist Church on East Pike St., and that location has been the theater’s home since it opened in May of 2007.
Like Morsberger, Rodriguez held the belief that the theater would become a “catalyst for the economic development and community gathering”. Currently seating 250 at its mainstage, the new performing arts center will include a 500-seat mainstage theater, a cabaret theater with seating for up to 300 and will feature numerous indoor and outdoor civic spaces including a courtyard connecting the existing building with the new.
Additional highlights include rehearsal spaces, an orchestra pit and a fly tower. Continuing Aurora’s tradition of showcasing local talent, the extended center will feature a strategically located art gallery, and there will also be multiple classrooms and educational spaces and a new civic space called “Art Alley” that will connect to a parking deck and a “South Lawn” residential area being developed on the far side of the City Park.
Mayor Judy Jordan Johnson shared the city’s plans to make downtown Lawrenceville a place where residents can live in walking distance of arts and entertainment and local restaurants.
“Lawrenceville with our partners, Aurora and all of you in the community, are working together for a new arts ‘sense of place’, and we’re very excited about this new chapter in our beginning,” Mayor Johnson said.
Partners from the College, Aurora and those from the city and county broke ground for the new center on June 13, 2019. If all goes according to plan, the center will open fall 2020.
Chairwoman Nash shared a sense of pride in seeing the downtown area become an evening and weekend hub of activity and expressed that Georgia Gwinnett college would play a growing role in the city’s downtown development.
“And all you legislators have the chance to see Georgia Gwinnett College and the Aurora Theater in a very robust partnership. It is going to be a delight to watch and see the outcome there,” Nash said.
Funding for the project comes from local sponsors including but not limited to Peach State Credit Union, the City of Lawrenceville, and Aurora has pledged $7.5 million towards the project.
Looking to the future of the town and theater, Rodriguez recalled his goals set in 2006 that the Aurora would become recognized for its unique community partnerships and as ‘the cultural center of Gwinnett and the North Georgia region.’
“Check plus,” Rodriguez said. “I believe we are on the path to doing that and much, much more.”