BAY HARBOR — An under-construction performing arts venue took on the added dimension of height this week in Bay Harbor, as crews began putting pre-formed concrete wall panels in place at the Great Lakes Center for the Arts.

Great Lakes Center for the Arts Petoskey News Review

Photo Courtesy of Petoskey News Review/Ryan Bentley

“The structural footings are in,” said Jill O’Neill, the center’s executive director. “We’re going three-dimensional.”

The panels will form the shell of a 500-seat theater, which will be a key amenity in the venue at the corner of Main Street and Bay Harbor Drive. Crews have been using a crane with a 200-foot boom to lift them into place. Center staff expect construction to progress through this winter — with structural steel installation slated to begin in February — and continue into 2018, with a grand opening gala set for that July. The opening season’s performance lineup is expected to be announced later this year.

Structured organizationally as a nonprofit, the center has raised more than $20 million toward the $25 million target for construction and development of its facility.

More than 65 individuals and organizations from the Bay Harbor community and beyond have contributed, and fundraising outreach is continuing. An endowment to fund ongoing center operations has also received some early contributions.

A ground breaking ceremony for the project took place last summer. O’Neill noted that construction efforts — led by Lansing-based The Christman Co. — have been proceeding on schedule so far.

Great Lakes Center for the Arts officials expect the venue will play host to varied musical performances, lectures, educational offerings, theatrical and comedic performances and film screenings.

Along with the theater, the center will include amenities such as flexible-use event space, a rooftop patio and a donor lounge.

So far, the center’s board of directors has a dozen members in place, with its roster expected to grow to 15-20 people by the time the venue opens and board membership eventually expected to reach 25-30. Along with O’Neill, the staff now includes development director Maris Harrington, and it’s anticipated to expand to 10 over the next two to three years.

Michael M. Kaiser, currently chairman of the DeVos Institute of Arts Management and former president of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., has been serving as a strategic consulting partner and founding artistic director for the Bay Harbor venue.

Following the years of consideration, planning and fundraising toward the center, O’Neill and Harrington saw this week’s start of wall construction as a key visual progress marker.

“This has been spoken about in this region for so many years,” Harrington said. “This is going to affect our children and our children’s children, and the lives of our residents and visitors.”

For information about contributing to the capital campaign and other details about the center, see The website is expected to have online payment provisions in place for donors in the near future. Prospective donors also can call Harrington at (231) 439-2606 to learn more about support opportunities.


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