Report: DPAC has record-breaking year for attendance, sellouts and money for Durham

Durham Performing Arts Center had a record-setting year for attendance in 2018, paced by 32 soldout performances of the hit musical ‘Hamilton.’
Durham Performing Arts Center had a record-setting year for attendance in 2018, paced by 32 soldout performances of the hit musical ‘Hamilton.’ The Herald-Sun

The Durham Performing Arts Center ended the fiscal year by setting several records, including 163 sellout shows, according to a preliminary report from the center’s leaders.

DPAC leaders presented the Durham City Council with an unaudited financial statement Thursday that shows the center earned the city more than $2.8 million last year. The income will go into the city’s DPAC Fund, which is used for debt service, maintenance, building improvements and other possible revenue shortfalls, including naming rights and hotel/motel occupancy tax.

DPAC held 240 events last year, according to the report. Total attendance was a record 539,710 guests. DPAC’s average attendance per event was its highest ever at 2,249 people per event.

“This gets better every year,” Durham Mayor Steve Schewel said. “The season, this year, was amazing. It was a fantastic year at DPAC.”

Last year’s schedule included a three-week run of “Hamilton,” a Broadway blockbuster. The show will return during DPAC’s 2020-21 season, but the dates haven’t been set.

Keelan Brown, chairman of the DPAC Oversight Committee, said Nederlander & PFM, the management company, was in compliance with the operating agreement with the city. The company has managed DPAC’s operations for the past 11 years.

“I continually see the bar being raised for what a facility like this can do to enrich the cultural life of a city,” said Councilman Charlie Reece. “I also want to point out the spectacular hospitality the DPAC staff provide guests who come in for a show. I know it is a focus of management from the very top to make the staff this friendly.”

Councilman Mark-Anthony Middleton commended the center for its “DPAC for All” program, a low-cost ticket option for people who purchase certain tickets at the box office.

“It’s very important that programs like this penetrate deep into the community,” he said.

DPAC is considering an expansion of “DPAC for All” so Durham residents may be able to purchase tickets over the phone.

Delayed decision explained

In other business, the City Council discussed their decision Monday night to delay choosing a development partner for the property at 505 W. Chapel Hill St., which was the former headquarters of the Durham Police Department.

Schewel said there was a misunderstanding about what the two companies vying for the project may submit as additional information about their proposals.

The Fallon Company, a Boston-based developer of mixed-use projects that include affordable housing, had received the recommendation from city staff last month. Washington, D.C.-based Akridge also was being considered.

During Monday’s regular meeting, Schewel told the council that Akridge had submitted additional information Friday and that Fallon had submitted more information prior to the meeting.

There wasn’t enough time to consider the materials, Schewel said Monday.

Schewel suggested delaying the decision until Nov. 4 with a deadline of Oct. 18 for the companies to submit any other information they wanted to be considered.

There had been a concern that the proposals had been inappropriately shared.

During Thursday’s meeting, it was disclosed that a Freedom of Information Act inquiry regarding the proposals had been filed during the initial consideration period. Both companies were apprised of the request made by the Durham Coalition for Affordable Housing and Transit before the proposals were released to the public interest group under the requirements of North Carolina public records laws, said Deputy City Manager Bo Ferguson.

The public records request asked for information about the number of affordable housing units proposed by each company. Advocates had been pressing the city to have 80 affordable units set aside for people making 60% of the area median income, which is about $40,425 for a four-person household for a family of four in Durham.

Fallon’s proposal has 300 apartments, including the 80 set aside as affordable. The plan also calls for the construction of an office building. It also preserves the old police headquarters building, which was one of the goals for the redevelopment of the property.

Akridge proposed more than 400 apartments, including 90 at the same affordability threshold. But it offered less commercial space and required demolishing the old headquarters building.

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Joe Johnson is a reporter covering breaking stories for The News & Observer. He most recently covered towns in western Wake County and Chatham County. Before that, he covered high school sports for The Herald-Sun.