The Midtown Arts Center, at 16th Avenue and Pearl Street, is open and functional.
The seven-story mixed-use structure, called The Midtown, opened at the beginning of the year. The 128,000-square-foot development is an unusual marriage of private luxury housing development with 40 residences rising from the second through seventh floors, and nine Eugene performing arts organizations on the first floor.
Pairing Eugene arts and culture with private development not only created a new thriving creative hub, but helped support the current need for downtown area housing, according to Eugene Ballet Executive Director Josh Neckels.
“It will also create a solid foundation for these nonprofit arts groups that function as attractive incentives for new businesses and investments in Eugene, as well as provide increased arts and cultural education,” Neckels said in a news release.
Eugene Ballet had been fundraising since 2016 for its new permanent home designed specifically to allow the academy to expand its capacity to create and educate. Conceived of and built in partnership between Eugene Ballet and longtime arts supporter Alex Haugland, with a team including Dustrud Architecture, Essex Construction and Paradigm Properties, the ballet academy will operate on the second floor of the nearly 30,000-square-foot Midtown Arts Center while leasing first-floor offices to arts organizations Chamber Music Amici, Lane Arts Council, Orchestra NEXT and the Eugene Opera, among others.
This new construction provides organizations more space to operate, closer proximity for easier collaboration and the ability to share and reduce maintenance and operating costs. Additionally, Alex Haugland’s Adh Development I sells the condos, studios and townhomes on the upper floors, a cooperation that was critical for all parties.
Architects and builders constructed The Midtown with a rambunctious rehearsing ballet production in mind.
“The building itself is separated all the way up with a six-inch seismic joint, so there’s actually two buildings, structurally independent,” architect Paul Dustrud said. “They can actually sway, and the nice thing is it allows an air gap for the sound.”
Apartments rise and wrap around the nonprofit groups like a capital “L.” Hallways linking units act as a second division between ballet rehearsal space.
‘A dream come true’
The Midtown Arts Center, or MAC, is a culmination of an aspiration Eugene Ballet Artistic Director Toni Pimble has imagined since founding the ballet company in 1978 and creating concrete MAC plans in 2016.
“It really is a dream come true,” Pimble said.
Moving from its building at the 1600 block of Willamette Street enables the Eugene Ballet more studios (seven total), rehearsal space, student capacity (from 300 to 500), and onsite costume and instrument storage. The storage area sits adjacent to a maintenance space complete with sewing machines for mending and washers and dryers along the wall.
“The other huge issue for dance, as you can imagine, is the laundry,” Pimble said. “And when we were designing this, I said we really need natural light (for sewing). So (Dustrud) put in two windows for us.” For Pimble, being married to Dustrud gave her incredible access to the architect designing her vision for the ballet. “At three o’clock in the morning, I’d say, ‘Paul, do you think we can do …?’ ” Pimble said.
Funding and functionality
The entire $6.8 million arts center has its roots in supporting the performing arts. According to Neckels and its website, the Eugene Ballet was able to raise $3 million “during the heart of the pandemic,” with $1.8 million coming from foundational support from the likes of the Oregon Cultural Trust, the Oregon Arts Commission and the Hult Endowment.
Additionally, the city of Eugene gave $800,000 ($700,000 from Oregon Lottery bonds and $100,000 from Systems (infrastructure) Development Charges forgiveness and $1.7 million came in individual donations, including contributions from Pimble and Dustrud.
Private donors had a hand in this collaboration as well. Eugene Ballet has a long relationship working with Adh developer Haugland. His parents, Richard and Rosaria, founders of Molecular Probes, donate to Eugene’s arts scene every year: Money to the ballet goes in Richard’s name, and funds for the Eugene Opera in Rosaria’s. Alex’s sister Marina took classes with the ballet in its less spacious Willamette Street days.
Now, though, the Eugene Ballet academy spreads over multiple studios, most of which combine into huge performance rooms. Studios Six and Seven, for instance, feature 24-foot ceilings and combine into as much square footage as the Hult’s Silva Concert Hall stage. During summer training, the MAC is hosting more than 75 students from Eugene and beyond. Students commute from Klamath Falls, Coos Bay and even via Zoom on the ballet’s new, state-of-the-art cameras.
In the academy’s new costume room, 3,000 different outfits, tutus and ephemera sit in organized, easily accessible tubs, another perk of the new digs. (It took Pimble and associate artistic director Jennifer Martin three months to pack and move the collection from the Booth Kelly Center in Springfield.) This week, ballroom dresses and a velvet burgundy tuxedo jacket are out and hanging on mannequins, ready for the ballet’s Midtown Arts Center performance unveiling.
The Eugene Ballet’s intimate “Midtown Matinees” at the MAC will feature live dance performances that represent a juxtaposition between classical
and contemporary ballet via “A Dream Within Reach,” “Cinderella” (pas de deux) and an audience opportunity to step into the choreographer’s shoes with a mini #instaballet event.
The show will run from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 21 and from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 22 with a post-show Q&A with choreographers and dancers inside the Haugland Family Studios at the Midtown Arts Center, 174 E. 16th Ave. Limited tickets, $50; 541-485-3992 or bit.ly/2VD3Sxy.