Smithfield planners OK redesigned gazebo stage

Published 9:35 am Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Smithfield’s Planning Commission has approved plans for replacing the gazebo stage outside The Smithfield Times’ office.

The commissioners voted unanimously, with Chairman Charles Bryan absent, on Oct. 11 to grant Smithfield’s and Isle of Wight County’s shared tourism department a waiver that will allow for the demolition of the existing 23-foot-wide wooden gazebo and replacement with a 37-foot-wide stage.

The new, longer stage will be built from treated wood and painted white, with a sloped roof and stage lighting. The plans call for two sets of stairs, a wheelchair ramp and removing a portion of the fence to create a brick path leading from the stage to Hayden’s Lane park.

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Tourism Director Judy Winslow announced plans in February to fund the project with a $10,000 grant from the Virginia Tourism Corporation’s DRIVE 2.0 program – a statewide initiative created to make the tourism industry more sustainable amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Smithfield’s Town Council voted in April to allocate an additional $15,000 to the project from its share of federal American Rescue Plan Act dollars.

Congress passed the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package in 2021, providing the town $8.7 million. The stage renovation was one of several projects the Town Council voted to fund with its remaining $3.4 million in unspent ARPA funds as of April.

The town acquired The Smithfield Times property in 2019 and presently leases the office to the newspaper, though the town plans to eventually repurpose the building. The stage and lawn outside serve as the home of Smithfield’s Summer Concert Series. 

Smithfield Times Publisher Emeritus John Edwards and his wife, Anne, started the concert series decades ago; it now operates as a project of the Isle of Wight Arts League.

According to Winslow, construction will begin in January. The goal, she said, is to have construction complete by May when the town reprises its Arts Fest.