Former Southport City Hall Building Architect hired for ‘Up Your Arts’ Restoration

State Port Pilot - Architect Hired

Up Your Arts took a major step forward in its attempt to restore the old Southpo1t City Hall when on Feb. 7 signed a formal contract with David Lisle of Lisle Architecture and Design to re-adapt the vacant building on East Moore Street into a state-of-the-art community-based creative and performing arts center.

Former Southport City Hall Building Architect hired for ‘Up Your Arts’ Restoration

Published in State Port Pilot, March 2 2022

By Eliot Duke
Staff Writer

Up Your Arts took a major step forward in its attempt to restore the old Southpo1t City Hall when on Feb. 7 signed a formal contract with David Lisle of Lisle Architecture and Design to re-adapt the vacant building on East Moore Street into a state-of-the-art community-based creative and performing arts center.

The nonprofit organization that was founded in 2017 has been looking for the right person to restore the former Brunswick County Courthouse building, and has conducted an extensive interview process over the past several months. Lisle offered the perfect combination of experience and
familiarity with Southport that the Board of Directors was looking for to take on its “Save the Hall, Y’all” initiative.

“This is huge for us,” John Keiffer, a member of the Up Your Alts board of directors, said. “It was a hard time coming.”

Finding the right person

Keiffer said he’d walked through The Southport Market in downtown Southport and thought, “I want to find the architect who did this project because this is exactly the kind of mindset we’re looking for.” Up Your Arts tried to track down the architect and had no luck, but Keiffer said when
they interviewed Lisle they asked him if he’d done anything in Southport and he responded he helped design Southport Market.

“This was the guy we were looking for,” said Keiffer. Up Your Arts Treasurer Bonnie Bray, who spent a lot of time at the old courthouse when she worked there as Southport’s finance director, is excited about the nonprofit’s latest move.

“It’s awesome,” Bray said. “It’s a fabulous building and I’m so happy we have an architect who knows Southport and historic preservation. I really think it’s a fabulous next step.”

Some of the criteria the board of directors looked at during the hiring process included experience with historic structures; ability to work with a nonprofit; an appreciation for con1munity-based performing and creative ruts spaces; and an ability to combine a creative design process with a
cost-focuses structural approach.

Pinpointing a specific timeline is challenging amidst a national supply chain crisis, Keiffer said, but early expectations are to have a formal design for the new layout ready in approximately six months that the nonprofit can present to the public for further input. The project then would go out for bid to interested contractors before construction could begin.

“Anything to do with the service industry and construction, timelines are (uncertain),” Keiffer said. “It hasn’t started getting any better. I had done some conceptual drawings in hopes of getting everything we wanted into the building, and some concepts on floor plans. (Lisle’s) task is to take our ideas and turn them into some sort of floor plan or layout that will actually work.”

Work lies ahead

Constructed in the mid-18oos, the building will need a lot of work.

Mold, Keiffer said, is a big problem with the building’s interior and probably will require a total “gut job,” where the inside is stripped down to the basic structural framework. While more expensive, Keiffer said such a move would open up more possibilities related to any new future plans.

“It gives a little more flexibility in terms of what we want to do with the designs because we’re not limited to exactly what’s there since so much of it has to come out,” said Keiffer. “Some rooms are just covered in mold.”

The courthouse served as Southport’s City Hall from 1979 to 2014, and has sat vacant for the past several years. The building is still owned by the city, and Up Your Arts began meeting with Southpo1t officials in 2019 to discuss possible re-uses of the site. The recent architect search was part of terms outlined in a second memorandum of understanding with the Southport Board of Aldermen in 2020.

‘We are excited to have reached this step in the process to save the histo1ic courthouse/city hall building,” said Robert Carroll, a Southport alderman and chair of the Up Your Arts board of directors. “Mr. Lisle brings a wealth of knowledge and experience that we feel will greatly benefit this project. We look forward to working with him to complete this next phase.”

Keiffer said the budget for the project is expected to be around $2 million and fundraising will play a key role in seeing the renovation to fruition.

The next steps forward

A March 27 fundraising gala to help cover the $70,000 architectural services costs is one of many events planned in the coming months to help generate public interest and contributions to the “Save the Hall, Y’all” initiative. The organization is focused on continuing its grassroots outreach efforts, including community-wide presentation and feedback events; social media presentations; smaller focus and discussion groups in various venues and formats; and talking with municipal leaders.

‘We’re still committed to trying to do this at no cost to the taxpayer or the city,” said Keiffer.

No visits to the building are currently permitted, but a full-color 3D virtual tour is available at upyourarts.org.

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Published On: March 22, 2022 | Category: | Tags: ,

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