By Dan Hust
WHITE LAKE June 15, 2001 Finally.
That was the feeling that swept through the 200-strong crowd inside the White Lake Firehouse Tuesday evening.
It was 7:30 p.m., June 12, 2001, and years of speculation, predictions and tantalizing rumors finally came to an end as officials from or associated with the Gerry Foundation revealed the extent of their detailed plans to bring a performing arts center to the area surrounding the site of the 1969 Woodstock Music Festival in Bethel.
But the presentation, intended to garner preliminary approvals from the Town of Bethel planning and town boards, illustrated much more than the 17,500-seat pavilion. The master plan calls for a performance hall on a manmade lake, a visitors center, exhibition and retail space, a musical museum, and a festival stage. Future plans include a school for the performing arts (with a residential component, said officials) and an inn/conference center designed in an unusual wave configuration.
Hurd Road would be turned into a dead end, while a new Hurd Road would be built starting at a point to the east of the current intersection with Route 17B in Bethel and curved around a parking area, then under a pedestrian bridge, and finally on to the original road as it heads past the festival site. A new exit for festival patrons would be constructed near the Woodstock Emporium, as well.
When will all this take place? According to Gerry Foundation Executive Director Jonathan Drapkin, expect construction to continue over the next decade.
Groundbreaking is scheduled next spring, he said, with the pavilion set to open for its first season in 2004.
The 635 acres of the 1,000-plus that Gerry Foundation creator Alan Gerry of Liberty owns is all within a new performing arts-zoned district surrounding the 37-acre site of the original festival, but roughly a third of that will remain mostly undeveloped although there are several large, open spaces that could see development, if GF officials decided to do so.
However, for now, the centerpiece pavilion and support facilities are ready to be constructed, pending successful outcomes of the necessary environmental and land use reviews. The town and planning boards are scheduled to meet on July 10 to continue that process.
The Performing Arts Pavilion
The performing arts pavilion itself would seat 3,500 under its translucent-glass roof, while another 14,000 could watch from the sloping lawn behind the indoor seats.
Several video screens and a stage would allow for viewing of the performances (no venues have been announced yet, although the New York Philharmonic is reportedly eager to make the center its summer home), and a road off West Shore would provide access to the back of the pavilion for performers and support personnel.
The pavilion was designed by architect Richard Meier of NYC, who has created such well-known buildings as the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art in Spain. Current projects include a bridge in Italy and the San Jose, California, City Hall.
As visitors enter the parking area via the new Hurd Road, they will walk across a bridge that affords a view of the pavilion and the countryside, ending up at a manmade lake surrounded by a musically-themed museum, food and retail stands, exhibition spaces, tourist info and a 1,000-seat performance hall. The Fall Garden Harvest Market, a recent hit at the Woodstock site, will be in this area, also.
From there, guests can proceed to the lawn in front of the pavilion or head west toward the site of the original historic festival, which much to the relief of several longtime Woodstock fans will remain untouched, save for a festival stage where the original was mounted.
An administrative building will be located off West Shore Road next to the old Gabriel Farm, near the back entrance to the pavilion.
The performing arts school and accompanying inn will be located in the southwestern corner of the development district and will feature a residential facility for students who are taking summer courses in instrumental music and perhaps voice, dance, opera and theater; and 250-300 rooms for guests who wish to stay at the nearby inn.
Such landscape design was created by the Olin Partnership from Philadelphia, Pa., headed in this venture by principal Cindy Sanders. One of their more recent projects was relandscaping the three-block area surrounding Independence Hall in Philadelphia, which can be viewed from their office windows.