Classic Carr




CARR TODAY: ROBERTO GONZALEZ; AUDITORIUM AND CONSTRUCTION: ORANGE COUNTY REGIONAL HISTORY CENTER

Q: Is the Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre really almost a century old?

A: Relative newcomers to Orlando might assume from its glass front that the Carr has been around for only a few decades. But look closely: Behind the exterior is a brick structure that began life 86 years ago as the Orlando Municipal Auditorium. The story of how it was transformed into the Carr could be called “Miracle on West Livingston Street.’’
In the early 1970s, Mayor Carl Langford and others decided the city needed a  state-of-the-art performing arts venue (sound familiar?). But with the economy tanking, finding the $7 million to $9 million needed was out of the question, so a committee started studying whether the auditorium could be renovated. Up to then, the “Muni Aud,’’ as it was called, had hosted everything from boxing matches and church meetings to organ recitals and Elvis (yep, in 1956).

Local architect Tom Price was on that study panel—and eventually became the lead designer on the “adaptive reuse’’ project. “I caught fire on the thing when I realized we could take this old barn of a building and make a state-of-the-art performing arts center within or close to the budget we already had,’’ Price recalls. Amazingly, that budget was only $2.2 million.

So in 1975, Price and his team went to work. The interior was gutted, and renowned theatrical design and acoustics expert George Izenour was called in. Every-other-row seating was installed (you look between people in the next row, not over them). Seating leg room was 39 inches, 3 inches more than required, which gave more space for people to pass and allowed for a continental seating plan (no center aisle).  An acoustical shell for orchestral performances was put in place (removed when the stage was enlarged for Broadway performances in the early 1990s).

But what to do with the entrance? It needed to look state-of-the-art too, but there wasn’t enough money to demolish and reconstruct the front of the auditorium. Price recalls his design group was having a heated discussion about the front one day when he finally blurted out, “Well, what do you want to do—build a glass box around it?!’’
Well, why not?

“The room fell silent,’’ Price says. “We were so fortunate that it fell in our laps that way.’’ Price designed the front you see today, consisting of a garden lobby and upper promenade, at a total cost of $90,000. That three-arched entrance to the lobby bar? It was the entrance to the original auditorium.

For the last 35 years the Carr has been the local place to go for Broadway touring theater, symphonies, ballet and intimate pop concerts. But with the touring shows moving to the new performing arts center next year—and the ballet and symphony following when their hall is built—what’s to become of the Carr, especially since it's on land intended for the massive Creative Village project?

Price says he would like to see the Carr “have a third life.’’ And it just might. While he makes no promises, Creative Village developer Craig Ustler says there’s a chance the venerable venue could find a place as part of the digital city of the future, possibly as a performance space for digital media or alternative arts. Adds Ustler, an Orlando native, “I see value in the history and story of this building.’’

Answer Man welcomes your questions about the Orlando area. Send queries to answerman@orlandomagazine.com

Edit Module
Want to read the whole issue? Download and read this issue and others on Magzter.

Add your comment:
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags

Guides & Resources

Vacation Planner

Your next getaway is only a click away. Search our database for a great vacation experience.

2016 Premier Veterinarians

2016 Pet Resource Guide

Check out our searchable 2016 list of some of the best pet resources in the Orlando area.

Premier Realtors

Check out our 2016 searchable database of Orlando's premier realtors.

Orlando's Best Lawyers 2016

Our annual list includes hundreds of Orlando-area attorneys in dozens of areas of practice.

Orlando's Top Dentists of 2016

Our annual list featuring 224 of the area's finest dental professionals.

Guide to Private Schools 2016

Our searchable annual database will help you chart an educational course for your family.
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

MoreRecent Blog Posts

'Orlando' Magazine Wins 8 Awards for Excellence

Recognition from Florida Magazine Association includes honors for design, writing, photography.

Weekend Happenings in Orlando Sep 23 to 25

Find the best events in and around Orlando for the weekend.

Messages of Peace

Offerings at the Global Peace Film Festival include a documentary about the Pulse nightclub tragedy.

Weekend Happenings in Orlando Sep 16 to 18

Find the best events in and around Orlando for the weekend.

Q&A: Zanna Roberts Rassi

“Marie Claire’s’’ senior fashion editor will host this weekend’s benefit during The Mall at Millenia's Fashion Week.
Edit Module