Little Diversified Architectural Consulting and Steinberg Hart to lead Phase One of Comprehensive Renovation

The University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) has announced the selection of the nationally recognized firms Little Diversified Architectural Consulting, based in Charlotte, and Steinberg Hart, based in Los Angeles, as the design team that will lead Phase One of a multiphase, comprehensive renovation of the historic Stevens Center in downtown Winston-Salem.

Little and Steinberg Hart will help determine the current cost and phasing strategy to maximize the $29.8 million appropriation in the current North Carolina state budget, approved in November 2021, for Phase One of the comprehensive renovation of the building. UNCSA will continue to seek a combination of public and private funding for this and future phases of the renovation.

The Stevens Center
UNCSA School of Dance students in front of the Stevens Center in downtown Winston-Salem. The Stevens Center is the largest learning laboratory at UNCSA, an economic driver for downtown Winston-Salem and a cultural destination for both residents and visitors. Credit Dane Shitagi

The team of Little and Steinberg Hart has programmed, designed and constructed more than 80 art centers that serve academic institutions and their surrounding communities. Little is recognized for its North Carolina educational expertise with 400 statewide higher education projects, including Queens University Gambrell Center, Charlotte Catholic High School Performing Arts Center, Central Piedmont Academic Center in Charlotte and Chapman Cultural Center in Spartanburg. Steinberg Hart brings a national perspective and related experience including the restored and reinvigorated performance venue for the Manhattan School of Music in New York, the iconic Pablo Center at the Confluence for the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire, the Francis Marion University Performing Arts Center, an artistic hub for a growing downtown Florence, South Carolina cultural district, and ImaginOn: The Joe & Joan Martin Center, which has served as a national model for integrating literacy, education, and the performing arts in downtown Charlotte.

“We’re overjoyed to be taking the first real steps toward making our long-awaited and long-overdue dream of renovating the Stevens Center a reality,” said UNCSA Chancellor Brian Cole. “It bodes incredibly well that we are working with the highly talented and nationally recognized team of Little and Steinberg Hart to lead this important project both for UNCSA and for the greater Winston-Salem community. A vibrant Stevens Center will stimulate our downtown economy and enhance our contribution to The City of Arts and Innovation. I am grateful that state legislative leaders and the governor, as well as our Forsyth County delegation and UNC System leadership, share our vision and recognize the importance of and potential for the landmark theater, and we are hopeful for their ongoing support as we move through this multiphase process. We are excited to get to work.”

“We are thrilled to be selected for this exciting project,” said Melanie Reddrick, executive principal-in-charge of Little, which will be the architect of record. “The Stevens Center is a significant historic treasure, and it holds great meaning for UNCSA and the region. We will work closely with university and community stakeholders to give this remarkable theater a new lease on life. When we are finished, our hope is that the Stevens Center brings joy to Winston-Salem for another 100 years.”

“The goal to bring the Stevens Center into the 21st century while maintaining its historic significance in the community is a lofty one and the design team is delighted to join UNCSA in this ambitious endeavor. We seek to create a reimagined building that will actively engage with the university and the surrounding arts district through memorable experiences that build community and connection,” said Delia Nevola AIA, Steinberg Hart managing principal, New York.

About the renovation

The Stevens Center. Credit: J. Sinclair Photography

The Stevens Center will remain online and open for rehearsals and performances at least through the 2022-23 season. Phase One of the renovation, expected to take three years, will include establishing a final scope of work and project budget, design development, and the beginning of the multiyear renovation process, including critical roof and building envelope repairs as well as interior improvements. Advance planning and design will begin immediately and are expected to take between 12-18 months, after which the entire building is anticipated to go dark for approximately two years during the renovation. Information about alternate venues for the UNCSA performance season, community programs and partner organizations during the time that the Stevens Center is offline will be announced at a later date. The upcoming season (2022-23) will not be affected.

The historic Stevens Center serves as the largest learning laboratory at UNCSA, an economic driver for downtown Winston-Salem and a cultural destination for both residents and visitors. A preliminary concept master plan, developed in 2017 by Robert A.M. Stern Architects (RAMSA) and DLR Group, in consultation with members of the Winston-Salem community as well as faculty, staff and students, laid the groundwork for turning the historic Stevens Center into a world-class performing arts venue.

It has been almost 40 years since its last significant renovation and the building is in need of repairs and modern upgrades. UNCSA will continue to seek input from the Winston-Salem community for the project, as well as partner organizations such as the Winston-Salem Symphony, Piedmont Opera and the National Black Theatre Festival, among others, who utilize the Stevens Center. Goals of the multiphase, comprehensive renovation include improving the patron and artistic experience for all the venue’s constituents, making critical upgrades to modernize the student learning experience, as well completing necessary roof and building envelope repair. Efforts will be made to retain the building’s original character.

About the Stevens Center

Originally a 1929 silent movie theater, the Stevens Center is a neoclassical building that was restored and reopened in 1983 with a redesigned stage and backstage that was able to house Broadway-scale live performances of music, theater, dance and opera. 

Located in downtown Winston-Salem, N.C., the 1,300-seat theater is the primary performance space for the University of North Carolina School of the Arts as well as for the Winston-Salem Symphony, Piedmont Opera, National Black Theatre Festival, and several other local arts organizations.

The Stevens Center has had a tremendous impact — locally as an economic catalyst for downtown development, regionally as a cultural anchor since the 1930s, and nationally as the launching pad for the careers of countless actors, dancers, technicians, musicians, and others on stage and behind the scenes. It was originally named the Carolina Theatre and was renamed for theater producer Roger L. Stevens upon its initial renovation.

About Little

Little is a national design firm recognized for crafting exceptional solutions that elevate client performance in the community, retail, workplace and healthcare industries. With nearly 400 professionals, the firm is recognized for its North Carolina educational expertise and the design of complex renovation projects. Little designed the Queens University Sarah Belk Gambrell Center for Arts & Civic Engagement, the Chapman Culture Center in Spartanburg, SC, and the Central Piedmont Community College Overcash Academic & Performing Arts Center, among other relevant projects. Little combines expertise in traditional architectural services (architecture, engineering, interior architecture) with proficiency in additional diversified architectural consulting services (planning, sustainability, site design, brand consulting, digital visualization and smart building technologies).

About Steinberg Hart

Steinberg Hart is an international architecture, interiors, and planning firm headquartered in Los Angeles. The firm has built a diverse and talented team that works collaboratively across all seven offices challenging one another to develop designs that build community, enhance business, support learning, and connect people with place. For nearly 70 years, Steinberg Hart has shaped environments and created inspiring places through an idea-driven, results-oriented approach to design that spans education, arts, residential, urban mixed-use, hospitality, civic, and commercial sectors. This includes over 280 performing arts facilities designed and delivered nationwide. Steinberg Hart is known for innovation in design thinking and building technologies that help clients realize the full potential of their projects.