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South Bend Common Council approves several bills funding Morris Performing Arts Center improvements

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The South Bend Common Council approved several bills Monday night regarding the multi-million dollar renovation and expansion of the Morris Performing Arts Center.

The Morris 100 project was announced earlier this year. In celebration of the theater’s 100-year anniversary, the city is planning a massive expansion of the building including a parking garage and a re-imagined outdoor plaza.

During Monday’s Common Council meeting, the council unanimously approved a quarterly 2021 budget adjustment ordinance that, among other things, sends $10,495,000 dollars to the Morris for the project’s first phase.

Donations are expected to repay $2,350,000 of the appropriation, leaving $8,145,350 in taxpayer dollars — plus another million in American Rescue Plan funds appropriated earlier this year for a total phase 1 cost of $9,145,350.

The money will be used to replace all the theater’s seats, carpet and flooring, hire engineers and architects and install several energy efficiency upgrades including a new roof, HVAC system and LED lights.

The other two ordinances concerned a $6,295,000 million bond issue backed by the county hotel-motel tax to pay for the project and an agreement with Ameresco, the company installing the energy efficiency upgrades.

Both passed unanimously.

Jeff Jarnecke, South Bend’s executive director of venues, said during the meeting that the city has so far raised about $17 million — $10 million from the city itself — of the project’s $30 million price tag.

The Morris Performing Arts Center is a financial supporter of WVPE.

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Jakob Lazzaro comes to Indiana from Chicago, where he graduated from Northwestern University in 2020 with a degree in Journalism and a double major in History. Before joining WVPE, he wrote NPR's Source of the Week e-mail newsletter, and previously worked for CalMatters, Pittsburgh's 90.5 WESA and North by Northwestern.