‘Honored to have helped provide this space’: Philharmonic breaks ground on downtown music and events center

On a day named for Helen Haddad by the city of Columbus, the longtime orchestra and arts supporter dug into the ground Wednesday where she and husband Bob Haddad have lavishly planted for the future at 315 Franklin St.

That location is the home of the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic — and, by early next year, will be the home of the $2.5 million Helen Haddad Music, Arts, and Event Center. The 80- to 100-seat facility will be a shared space for concerts, recitals, theater, dance performances, meetings, receptions and more.

At the shovel-festooned groundbreaking that attracted more than 100 supporters, the woman of the hour was overwhelmed, especially when she realized the great surprise from Columbus Mayor Jim Lienhoop — proclaiming the day in her honor.

“I feel very honored to have helped provide this space,” said the former longtime member of the Philharmonic Chorus. “We don’t have very many local performing spaces that are small enough — and that aren’t like an auditor Haddad laughed when someone asked the retired Columbus Container founder if he ever before had to shovel anything.

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He recalled that he had shoveled cement for road work for a summer during his teen years.

In June 2018, the Haddads announced their decision to donate $1 million toward the Philharmonic’s Building for the Arts Capital Campaign. The Haddads have long been key supporters of the Philharmonic’s youth programs.

The Haddad’s gift, made in two parts, included an outright gift of $500,000 seeking an additional $500,000 in matching funds. Members of the community stepped up and met that challenge within six weeks.

With those funds, plus contributions by The Heritage Fund — the Community Foundation of Bartholomew County, the Custer and Nugent foundations and other foundations who support the arts, the Philharmonic generated the current total of more than $2.4 million that it has for the work.

The final amount needed is expected to be met via the current $50,000 matching grant opportunity through the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority’s CreatINg Places program.

In keeping with the local couple’s support of the orchestra’s youth programs, a few members of the Philharmonic Youth Orchestra entertained, along with the Columbus Indiana Children’s Choir under mostly sunny skies and temperatures in the low 60s.

Linehoop told the gathering that this constituted one of the favorite parts of his job — “watching Columbus grow.”

Force Construction did the design work on the structure for free. The company also will serve as the project manager.

David Force, the company’s executive vice president, called the Haddads “wonderful people always with the community’s interests in mind.”

Peter King, who has worked on the capital campaign for the event center, praised local and regional Old National Bank officials who not only helped with the finances, but also guided organizers through a community interview process that effectively gauged the local interest and need for the structure that will be built on the back portion of the Philharmonic office.

The process showed that agencies ranging from Mill Race Theatre Company to Dancers Studio Inc. are interested in using the facility. Kim Lingeman, executive director of Dancers Studio Inc., said before Wednesday’s groundbreaking that the troupe could use the space during a summer youth program called Fairy Camp.

“There will be plenty of seating for that, a good stage, and plenty of backstage space,” Lingeman said.

David Bowden, the only music director in the Philharmonic’s 32-year history, closed the event with a simple declaration about the space that will house the orchestra’s top-tier concert piano — and a second keyboard down the road.

“Dreams,” Bowden said, “do come true.”

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Construction work begins: Next month.

Project manager: Columbus’ Force Construction.

Cost: $2.5 million.

Where: At the back portion of the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic office at 215 Franklin St.

Seating: 80 to 100 seats.

A sound investment: The area at the back the stage and even the walls will include materials to best highlight musical sound.

How you can donate: the cip.org.