By Rick Callihan
Down in Macon, where the Piedmont plateau meets the coastal plain, sits a lonely, taxpayer-subsidized museum that averages fewer than 70 visitors a day.
The Georgia Music Hall of Fame was built there in 1996, costing state taxpayers over $6 million at the time (the Music Hall of Fame is managed by a state Authority, a public-state corporation). To balance the Music Hall of Fame’s books, the Georgia for years has been treating the “attraction” as a welfare project. With state funds rolling in, the Music Hall of Fame, like many other public projects, has never been held accountable financially.
Times have changed. The state’s General Assembly has shut off the flow of fund and earlier this year ordered the hall of fame to be put out for bid.
At stage right is Dunwoody Councilman Danny Ross. Ross wants to relocate the Georgia Music Hall of Fame to Dunwoody. At a recent Dunwoody City Council meeting, Ross made a presentation to the other council members asking for their support.
No, not financial support. Ross was very clear on that issue, as were the four council members voting in favor of a city resolution to simply support (emotionally, I suppose, since it was not a resolution of financial support) the move to Dunwoody.
Location near Perimeter Mall
The City Council joins other local groups in support of bringing the hall of fame to Dunwoody, including The Perimeter Community Improvement District, the Dunwoody Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Dunwoody Chamber of Commerce, and, most importantly, the Spruill Center for the Arts.
Of the supporters, only the Spruill group is putting their money where their mouth is. Spruill CEO Bob Kinsey said his organization will donate their 5 acres of land (now that the proposed mixed use project, Cityville Dunwoody, slated for that land has been nixed) for the hall of fame. This offering by the folks at Spruill adds life to Ross’ dream.
The 5-acre tract is near Wal-Mart on Ashford-Dunwoody Road and is now home to the Spruill Gallery. In 2008, Spruill claimed the 5 acres to be worth $3 million, and its location will surely impress the folks on the board who will be deciding the future home of the hall of fame.
Dunwoody is not alone in its desire to snag the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. Macon wants to keep it, as do many people in Bibb County. Macon City Council just pledged over $500,000 (to be split over three years with Macon’s failing Sports Hall of Fame) and passed a 1 percent local hotel tax in an effort to keep the venue.
Groups in Woodstock and Athens are also interested. Macon has the advantage of already having a building in place, but has a poor track record with the music hall of fame. Athens seems like a natural fit for a music museum, but its population is nowhere near that of the metro Atlanta area near Dunwoody .
Ross said a non-profit group based in Dunwoody will submit a proposal by the Dec. 10 deadline. Once submitted, the Georgia Music Hall of Fame Authority will rate all proposals and will announce the findings April 15, 2011.
The future home for the Georgia Music Hall of Fame should not be dictated by history or the origin of Georgia’s music legends. Athens and Macon have history on their side, but it’s going to take money and a large pool of potential visitors to land the hall of fame.
In general, a museum collects and cares for objects of some historic value and then displays these objects to the public. Most museums are located in major cities. Of the interested parties, not one comes close to Dunwoody regarding the nearby population. I think the artists (inductees) would prefer a Dunwoody location over a smaller area like Woodstock or Athens. The goal of most artists is to get their music out to as many people as possible, and they accomplish that by touring and performing in major markets. Same goes for a museum.
Of the groups in competition, Dunwoody has the advantage of location. Surrounded by millions of people and having a MARTA stop nearby, Dunwoody’s proposal will highlight its location. I think the Dunwoody bid should focus on being a metro Atlanta location, as opposed to labeling itself as a Dunwoody location.
Multi-Use Performing Arts Center
What will it take for Dunwoody to win the bid? The Ross and friends’ proposal will need to include a rendering of the proposed site. Based on clues during Ross’ presentation and the fact that the Spruill center is involved, look for a multi-use facility to be proposed for the hall of fame.
The authority requires 7,500 square feet of exhibit space and an additional 2,500 square feet for archive storage. Dunwoody’s proposal may include a 750-seat auditorium (for concerts performed by inductees); a retail shop; a gallery for the Spruill artists; a food and beverage service area; educational classrooms; a parking deck; and a ballroom for special events and meetings. All this at a potential cost of $25 million? And then you still need people to show up to visit and use the facility to generate funds to cover operating expenses estimated at $1 million a year.
The next step in the process (after the bids are submitted) is the waiting stage. If Dunwoody is selected, look for huge fundraising efforts, with a focus on metro Atlanta corporations as well the major artists from Georgia. As long as city tax dollars are not used, I look forward to having Dunwoody as the new home of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame.
Dunwoody resident Rick Callihan is our local columnist for the Dunwoody Reporter. You can find his blog at http://www.dunwoodytalk.blogspot.com.