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Dedicated to the Historic Preservation of the Site of the 1969 Woodstock Festival

Hurd & West Shore Rds
Sullivan County
Bethel  NY

Jupiter, Mars, Planning Board Align
By Barbara Gref
The Towne Crier, March 10-16, 2004

A smaller, but not necessarily less elaborate, version of the Bethel Woods performing arts center in Bethel got a key public airing last night in what’s expected to be the last round of approvals before a shovel goes into the earth at the building site.

The Bethel Woods once entailed a more sprawling 390,000 square foot plan for the $40 million PAC. Now it’s described as a 40,000 square foot plan – at least as far as the first phase is concerned. The full build out is expected to cost in the realm of $46 million.
Last night, in a public hearing before the Town of Bethel planning board, the process that’s likely to lead to the groundbreaking this summer was commenced.

In a meeting that commenced at 7 p.m. (after press time for The Towne Crier), the town planning board got a view of the overall development plan for what’s to be known as the “Bethel Woods Center for the Arts.”

The performing arts center, now some five years in the planning stages, is to be built at the top of the historic pasture that hosted the 1969 Woodstock Festival and on land adjacent to the Woodstock site. In the late 1990s, self-made billionaire Alan Gerry of Ferndale purchased the 38-acre concert site and subsequently 600 surrounding acres in order to execute the plan to build the performing arts center.

The project has been hailed as one of the gems in a newly emerging economic future for Sullivan County, even though a lengthy environmental assessment project took it out of the public eye for months at a time over the past few years.

“We’ve always been moving forward on this, but it sometimes has not been visible to the public,” said Gerry spokesman Glenn Pontier. “This month, the people will see the renderings,” he said, and last night the public would also get yet another chance to weigh in on the project.

Pontier described the 40,000 square foot plan as a “smaller, more focused” version of the first, which took into account, to some extent, public comment that has been submitted in regard to the project over the past several months.
Last month, Jonathan Drapkin, who heads the Gerry Foundation, the organization set up to build the center as well as fund other community projects, told the Bethel planning board the original, extensive plan was one that accommodated all the possibilities within its scope. He said the new plans are “a hybrid of what we thought were the best elements of each of the structures that were originally proposed.”

Specifically, the condensed plan combines elements of four buildings (visitors center, museum, performance hall and community theater) in one “interpretive center.”

Last night’s hearing is to be followed later this month by the submission of the site plan, said Pontier. Those will be the plans that more specifically address the first phase of construction.

The national performing and cultural arts center design firm of Westlake Reed Leskosky is the architect of the project. They’ve been cited in over 100 design awards programs; their most well-known project is the Blossom Music Center in Cleveland.

Bethel Woods Math

Key numbers, taken from town planning board presentations over the past two months.

1 Total acres – 634, on and near the site of the 1969 Woodstock music and arts festival

2 The pavilion, located in the “Gabriel Bowl,” has a covered seating portion for 4000 seats

3 Maximum attendance expected for a typical event was in the 7000 range (4000 are under cover and 3000 on the lawn)

4 Lawn area capacity could, depending upon the performance, be increased to accommodate as many as 12, 000 persons

5 Capacity for a major lawn event, in the original concert bowl, up to 30,000, accommodated with port-a-potties, with additional parking and temporary lighting

6 Parking areas (divided into 3 levels – handicapped accessible and two others) – sized for about 2,350 cars

7 Interpretive Center, which combines elements of the visitors center, museum, performance hall and community theater – seating capacity 650

8 The Farmer’s Market will still be a facet of the site – it will have 3 permanent, pole barn-type structures consisting of 4,000 square feet each