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Art Gallery Eyes Briggs Building

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RALEIGH — The private City Gallery of ContemporaryArt will ask the Raleigh City Council today to help it purchase thevacant, historic Briggs Hardware building on Fayetteville Street Mall.Mayor Tom Fetzer says he doesn't see the council coming through with the$750,000 sought.

The mayor listed arguments against the funding: the city's greatexpense in cleaning up after Hurricane Fran, the gallery's recentrejection of the city's offer to include the gallery in the city-ownedArtspace building, and other possibilities for Briggs building use such asoffices, apartments or shops.

The City Couincil cut the subsidy of the City Gallery in half thissummer. Gallery Executive Director Denise Dickens said she hopes thecouncil will regard the request as "an investment in downtownrevitalization and the arts. It's bigger than just an arts project."

Fetzer says the gallery should go to the private sector for funding,since he sees the request as a capital campaign.

Dickens said banks want a city commitment before they will lend thegallery money for the $2 million project. The gallery has a Dec. 1deadline to exercise its option to buy the three-story, red brick buildingfor $445,000. Then, renovation of the 122-year-old building could run to$1.5 million. Tentative plans call for a cafe, museum shop and theater orexhibit space on the first floor. More exhibit space could be on thesecond floor, with offices on the third.

In addition to help with purchase and renovation, the gallery boardwants the city to keep contributing to an annual operating subsidy andprogram grant that totats $83,000 for at least five more years. Afterthat, the gallery might support itself entirely, the group says.

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