Pantheon Business Theater

Sun-Commercial file photo | Work has begun to transform the Pantheon Theatre in the Pantheon Business Theater, a $2.4 million shared work space and business incubator.

The curtain has gone up on work at the Pantheon Business Theater.

Alan Knepp with Myszak and Palmer Architecture and Development reported to the 5-member Pantheon Board — the group charged with overseeing construction of the shared workspace and small business incubator — on Tuesday afternoon that since work began just about a month ago, much progress has been made.

“There’s been a lot of cleaning up, a lot of taking out debris. It was a mess in there,” he told the board. “But they’re getting there.”

Several areas have also been demolished so crews can make way for new construction, he said. On the main level, work on the building’s new elevator is already under way.

The floor, too, has been torn out to make way for new plumbing.

But as with any historic building, the surprises keep coming.

“With this being a demo and renovation, every time they open something up, questions follow,” Knepp told the board with a grin. “We’re answering daily questions.”

Myszak and Palmer is keeping in close contact with Wolfe Construction, 2724 Washington Ave., which was awarded the $2.4 million contract this spring, and hosting bi-weekly meetings. Knepp is then taking that information and sending out weekly updates via email to the board members.

“But it seems to be going well so far,” he said.

The board also on Tuesday paid its first two major claims associated with the transformation of the historic downtown theater, one for $5,000 for some asbestos removal an another $15,485 to Wolfe, which represents demolition work done so far, Knepp said.

Members also agreed that city clerk-treasurer Sharon Meek would pay regular, small claims without first getting approval from the full board.

It’s process allowed by state law, according to the Pantheon Board’s legal counsel Andrew Porter, and exercised often by city and county officials in terms of paying regular, reoccurring bills, such as utility payments and insurance premiums.

Such costs will come into play here, Porter said, like with bills to Duke Energy to cover the cost of electricity during construction.

Porter described it as claims that are “straight forward” and with no need for “mass discussion before payments are made.”

The board will still see the bills when they pay monthly claims, member and county commissioner Trent Hinkle pointed out, and they will be made available for viewing by the public, upon request, via the city clerk-treasurer’s office.

The Pantheon Board is overseeing a slightly scaled-back version of the original Pantheon Business Theater project.

Initial bids back in February were for more than the board had to spend, which is about $2.5 million split between city and county elected officials. In an effort to find compromise, work was limited to the theater's ground floor with the option of doing the second and third floors — which included more rentable office space and a theater-style meeting room in the balcony — at a later date.

The scope of the work still includes the construction of new, larger men's and women's restrooms, a full redesign of the theater's main stage as an event space, an open-concept shared workspace an three offices available for rent.

A separate board has been set up to oversee daily operations once the small business incubator, which will be jointly owned by the city and county, is up and running.

Operating as the Pantheon Education Center, Tony Burkhart, owner of Burkhart Insurance Agency and an early champion for the Pantheon Business Theater, is sitting at its helm.

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