The company redeveloping the Liberty Warehouse property has agreed to let Liberty Arts into its sculpture-casting pavilion after all.
Under an agreement made this week, Liberty Arts gets unlimited access to the casting facility through March, and may work out limited access later while East West Partners finishes its apartment-retail building beside Durham Central Park.
“They seemed pleased about the outcome,” said Deputy City Manager Bo Ferguson, who acted as a go-between to strike a deal between the developer and the arts group.
“We’re very happy with that,” said Liberty Arts President Jackie MacLeod. “We’re gearing up .to get our first (metal) pour together.”
Liberty Arts vacated the casting facility while the old tobacco-auction warehouse – last of more than a dozen that once operated in Durham – was demolished. All that remains now is two sections of historic brick wall that are to be incorporated in to the new structure.
One of those brick sections is the back wall of the city-owned casting pavilion. Liberty Arts had expected to resume using the pavilion once demolition was done.
Then, though, unexpected safety and liability issues due to the wall’s unstable condition made it likely they would not be allowed back in until the new building is finished in late 2015.
Facing a loss of income and visibility that threatened the group’s existence, Liberty Arts and its supporters appealed to the city to intervene.
“We put the word out there in a very respectful manner,” MacLeod said. “We stuck to the facts, reflecting on our longstanding in the community ... And it worked, which is wonderful.”
As part of the deal, Liberty Arts does have to give East West Partners some assurance of its own safety.
“On request of East West Partners we’re looking for a specialist to go in ... and just check out in general that what we do is safe, that we do it in a proper manner and follow everything that we should be,” MacLeod said.
“What the developer wants to ascertain is ... whether we are in any shape or form a safety risk,” she said,. “We welcome that; we’ve got a fabulous track record of 12 years of casting in that facility without any accident.”