New venue available for public to rent in Berea

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Starting May 1 2022, the Chestnut Street Pavilion becomes a rentable, public multi-use facility according to Berea Business and Tourism Development Director Donna Angel, and the City of Berea.

On that date, rate sheets, regulations, and reservation forms will be published online to allow the public to reserve the pavilion for private and public events. The public will be able to rent the facility for parties, family reunions, and other outdoor events, according to officials.

Additionally, the Chestnut Street Pavilion will be a likely venue for upcoming music concerts, after the Berea Tourism Commission recently approved an initiative to invite more local musicians to perform in the city throughout the spring, summer and fall months.

“We had a tremendous response on that from our last meeting,” Angel said of the plan to bring more music groups to Berea. “I think music is just a great thing we need to do more of.”

Discussion about the future of the Chestnut Street Pavilion took up several minutes after local resident Jacque Bowling expressed her opinion during the public comments period that the pavilion will not be suitable for public use because it is open to the elements. Bowling asked whether the city would try to modify the pavilion for use in inclement weather.

Commissioner Richard Thomas disagreed with Bowling, however, stating the pavilion was specifically built as a venue for spring, summer and fall events. “You said the building is not functional,” Thomas said. “That’s your opinion. It may not be suitable for a driving rainstorm, but that’s your opinion.”

Angel emphasized the new facility was never intended to be used for events during bad weather, such as heavy rain or snow. “The pavilion was built to be an outdoor, multi-use facility. So, when we think of outdoors, we don’t think of enclosing it.”

Commissioners did agree with another point Bowling made, however. Bowling wanted to know the precise cost of the pavilion, noting that by her accounting, the facility cost approximately $180,000 more than projected in the current budget.

Commissioners acknowledged there were overages in the project, some of which had to do with the grading and drainage of the parking lot, and they agreed with Bowling’s suggestion that the exact figures should be made public.

“The public has a right to know down to the penny what the money was spent on and where those funds came from,” Thomas said.

All of the commissioners thanked Bowling for her interest in tourism, though at least one took issue with one other objection she made.

“I could care less about the Berea Farmer’s Market,” Bowling said. “They don’t live in Berea, they do not pay property tax, so I could really care less.” Bowling also asserted that some produce at the market is not locally grown.

While thanking Bowling for attending the meeting, Commissioner Laura Carpenter said tourists have expressed very positive opinions about the Berea Farmer’s Market.

“Jackie, thank you so much for coming and caring. I can feel how much you care,” Carpenter said, adding that as the owner of vacation rentals in Berea, she’s had a different perspective on the market. “My clients love the farmer’s market.” Carpenter added some of her clients tell her that when they visit town, they cook with ingredients they find at the market.

Carpenter did agree with Bowling’s suggestion that city officials should look at other pavilions in other communities to get ideas for enhancing Berea’s pavilion. Carpenter called the Chestnut Street Pavilion a work in progress.

Much of the initial funding of the Chestnut Street Pavilion was secured by federal and state grants won by a coalition of city officials and private citizens. The city landed a $250,000 grant from the Kentucky Office of Agricultural Policy, $100,000 came from the USDA Rural Development Division, and $10,000 came from the Agricultural Development Committee of the Madison County Extension Office. Berea Tourism gave another $250,000 toward the effort.

City officials have stated the pavilion presented an opportunity to take advantage of available state and federal funds while allocating local tourism dollars for the public good. Mayor Bruce Fraley, meanwhile, has expressed his belief that the pavilion will spark economic development in a very visible gateway into town.

At least one local entrepreneur, realtor Sandy Adams, revealed plans to convert the old Mario’s restaurant building into an ice cream/coffee shop based, in part, on the city’s investment in the Chestnut Street Pavilion and the Tolle Building.