DALLAS – A Little Rock, Ark. city panel awarded the first contracts Tuesday to begin renovation of historic city-owned music hall that will be funded by a $50 million bond request expected in November.

The contracts awarded Tuesday by the Little Rock Advertising and Promotion Commission cap construction work at Robinson Center Music Hall at $60 million. Total project costs are estimated at $64.5 million.

The Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau, which operates and maintains the music hall, voted in October 2012 to seek bond financing for the renovation effort.

The proposed referendum would allow the city to issue bonds supported by the sales tax. No tax increase would be required.

Mayor Mark Stodola said the wording of the referendum will be determined by the construction estimates the city receives for the project.

The renovation project is to begin in summer 2014 and be completed by July 2016.

Seating in the music hall will be reduced from the current 2,600 to as few as 1,800. The stage area will be increased, but space within the exhibition hall will be halved.

Work also will seek to improve the sound quality and increase the building’s earthquake-resistance rating.

The contracts awarded July 23 for pre-construction work will be overseen by a manager serving as a liaison between the contractor and architects.

The art-deco facility was completed in 1939 at a total cost of $860,000. The original work was funded by a city bond issue and a $387,000 grant from the federal Public Works Administration.

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