Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Next step in helping to preserve Scottsdale's Kerr Cultural Center

The next important meeting to put on your calendars will be 5:30 p.m. Thursday, March 13, at One Civic Center, 7447 E. Indian School Road, when the Scottsdale Historic Preservation Commission is scheduled to vote on a conservation easement. Patricia Myers, Chair, and Kathy Howard, Co-chair, of the Concerned Citizens for the Kerr Cultural Center (CCKCC) hope that a large number of Kerr supporters attend to sign comment cards and speak in favor. The proposal will then go to City Council, date to be determined.

Positive progress is being made to preserve the two historic adobe buildings of the Kerr Cultural Center in Scottsdale. Although the one-year-old grassroots organization, CCKCC has aggressively pursued Historic Preservation Overlay Zoning from the City of Scottsdale, another designation was proposed and appears to be stronger for protection. It is called a Conservation Easement. In contrast, historic overlay zoning would have had no strength because a state entity has sovereignty that a city cannot usurp.

Meetings to discuss the conservation easement provisions have been held between the city and representatives of Arizona State University, which owns and operates the cultural center. At the Feb. 14 meeting of the Scottsdale Historic Preservation Commission, 11 specific provisions were discussed. The key point has the easement running with the property and will apply to future owners. That means if the Kerr were sold by ASU, the buildings could not be destroyed. However, the easement does not cover the function of the Kerr as a cultural center.

At the February 14 meeting, we asked for more precise provisions: include the usage, include the parking lot, designate length of time of easement coverage and provide for roadway accessibility. These are being presented in a future meeting between the city and ASU.

FYI, a rezoning sign on the property immediately adjacent to the Kerr last year prompted the organizing of CCKCC. The organization now has 500+ signatures in support of the Kerr remaining as a functioning arts center. That rezoning issue (immediately north for condos and an enlarged conference center) is in limbo because the city of Scottsdale asked for changes to the plans, which have not been made. But the rezoning request has not been withdrawn.

Also, ASU restored the adobe exterior and the doors last fall, but no funds were available for interior improvements, hence a benefit event at 2 p.m. Sunday, February 24, with musicians and staff working without pay. Funds from the performance and a silent auction will go toward interior enhancements. There will be complimentary hors d’oeuvres and dessert, coffee and tea, with wine and beer for purchase. Tickets are $65 reserved, $50 general admission. If you are interested in attending this concert of classical, Renaissance, and jazz (Gershwin), call the Kerr at 480-596-2660.