Integrated complex, park to replace broken parking lot at Five Points
Jason SchaeferThe Valdosta Daily Times
VALDOSTA — In the next few years, citizens can expect to visit the grounds of a combined $20 million auditorium twice the size of Mathis, a $15 million library, an outdoor amphitheater and open parks, all in the Five Points area.
If SPLOST VII passes, that is.
The seventh cycle of the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, on the ballot Nov. 6, will bring in at least $150 million during a six-year period to fund the new auditorium and library and other municipal projects if the referendum is approved by voters.
The plan for the auditorium and library represents a major overhaul of the 22-acre Five Points area that will serve the community in a variety of capacities and be easily accessible.
Its central location places the area within three miles of 93 percent of residents, according to City of Valdosta officials.
Not only will the auditorium and library function in their traditional capacities — housing shows and literature — their design will also provide computer access, areas for public and private functions and space for outdoor activities and presentations.
The auditorium, in its capacity as a venue for traveling shows, is expected to draw large entertainment companies and the crowds that go along with them, said Five Points Municipal Auditorium Steering Committee Chair Bob Goddard. The library, as a critical contributor to Valdosta’s quality of life, has the ability to draw businesses for further development of the city, Goddard said.
“Libraries used to be a place where people went to check out a book, study and read,” Goddard said. “Now they have become a lot like community centers. People who do not have computers will go to the library. They will work on resumes and do research; they will search job postings; they will do a wide variety of things they can’t do at home.”
The project also offers an innovative solution to the eye-sore of broken blacktop at the Five Points area, Goddard said. To him, the project presents an opportunity to take underused and underdeveloped areas of Valdosta and build them into something huge that will “reinvigorate the whole area,” he said.
“Five Points is a major gateway when people come into town,” Goddard said. “It’s the first thing they see, and we have an opportunity to really create an inviting, exciting gateway to our community that shows people from other parts of the state that we are a vibrant and
growing area and they need to move here and bring their business here.”
Mathis City Auditorium had done well in serving the community for 50 years, but it no longer meets the needs of the community in terms of size and modernity, Goddard said. The stage is too small for many productions and there is little room for smaller events.
“A lot of the Broadway-type touring shows will not come to Valdosta because of the specifications for the stage,” Goddard said. “There’s very little sidestage area, very little backstage area, and they cannot fly the scenery in and out.”
Many times, traveling shows barely have enough room to get scenes off of their trucks, Goddard said.
The larger, 1,300-seat auditorium will provide much more room, as well as a multi-purpose room, a lobby, and pre-function space that provides much greater and more flexible space than the existing facility, said project designer Rob Evans of IPG Architects.
Indirectly, the new auditorium will provide space for the expansion of South Georgia Medical Center as well, Evans said. Once the auditorium is built, the old facility will be sold to SGMC.
Outside, the project design includes walking trails, bikeways, passive park space and an outdoor amphitheater in between the library and auditorium. The two buildings will be built to complement each other.
“This central space will create a synergy between both facilities weaving them together as part of the greater whole,” Evans said. “This courtyard will include landscaping, water features, and a hardscape to provide an experience the community can enjoy, and one that is certain to become a focal point and destination.”
Like Mathis Auditorium, the existing library has served the community well in its time, but technological advances and the expansion of Valdosta through the years has left the building dated and too small, Goddard said.
“Our community has grown, and it’s difficult for the existing library now to meet all the needs of citizens,” Goddard said. “They could easily use more terminals, more parking; people will frequently drive around the library two, three times to find a parking space.”
The State Library Board claims that for a community of Valdosta’s size and the number of communities the library serves, Valdosta’s library should be double the size it is now, Goddard said. The current library is “teeming with people,” he said.
If SPLOST VII is voted down, there is little hope for the project.
“It’s not a new tax,” Goddard said. “It’s a continuation of SPLOST VI. I look at it more as an investment in our community and keeping the community vital and vibrant and relevant for our citizens.”