Anyone who has struggled putting together an IKEA bookcase can sympathize with Doug Spencer and Jess Corrigan. The men are leading an extensive review of thousands of documents, diagrams and drawings of the final theater for Orlando's new performing-arts center.
The review is taking place as city officials prepare to vote Monday on a financing deal that could jump-start construction of the final phase of downtown's Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.
It's tricky business because of the complexity of the high-tech center, said Corrigan.
"There are literally thousands of wires that have to get to the right place," said Corrigan, senior vice president of HKS Architects.
Because the center's various systems are interrelated, any modification often produces a domino effect — familiar to homeowners mired in a remodeling project.
"One change might affect 50 drawings," consultant Spencer said. "You change one restroom stall and the plumbing moves, which means the electric moves, then a wall moves. Just one little thing might change a lot."
If the financing proposal is approved, "we should be ready to go," said center president Kathy Ramsberger.
Any delay could be costly. After the tanking economy in 2009 forced officials to split the project into two phases, the center's price tag grew from $425 million to the current estimate of $503 million.
The final phase of construction is tied to a multi-venue deal that would provide tourist-tax dollars for Dr. Phillips, a professional soccer stadium, the Citrus Bowl and tourism marketing efforts. Orlando's City Council will vote on the $94.5 million proposal Monday, while the Orange County Commission will vote Oct. 22.
If the deal is approved, it would take slightly more than a year for the center to break ground on the final theater, Ramsberger said. The document review, likely to continue through March, is necessary because the current construction drawings are based on 2007 building codes. That's fine for the section now taking shape — but the new portion will have to follow the updated 2012 code.
The Dr. Phillips team is also adjusting the plans to meet current standards for the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The revised plans would then be subject to city permits, and new contractor bidding would take place before the final theater's groundbreaking. Officials are hopeful that starting construction by the beginning of 2015 will allow the center to be completed by 2018.
Spencer and Corrigan have discovered benefits to this two-pronged approach to building the center, which will open its Broadway-style auditorium and smaller community theater in the fall of 2014. The final theater is an acoustic hall for ballet and orchestra performances.
"This is a unique opportunity to learn from the first stage," Spencer said. "The goal is to spend money now on design fixes that will save money later on construction."
Money is still a key concern. Even with the $25 million in tourist-tax revenue from the multivenue deal, the second phase would need an additional $37 million.
The best marketing tool for the center is the portion already built, said Allisson Yu, Dr. Phillips vice president of philanthropy. Some of the building's signature touches, such as its wavy roofline, are now visible to potential donors who tour the construction site.
"They come in here and see this two-thirds building," Yu said. "We can find people who want to see this whole project finished."
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