The LOT Downtown
Live music and theatrical melodrama could begin reverberating through downtown Mansfield as the community celebrates a new outdoor entertainment venue.
But Live Outdoor Theater Downtown, popularly known as The LOT Downtown, did not come overnight; it required collaboration with state transportation officials and community volunteers, not to mention a longstanding perception of central Mansfield as not exactly conducive to after-hours entertainment.
“There was not a lot happening after 5 o’clock down there. Shopowners close up and weekends were dead,” said Justin Gilmore, one of three members of a board hoping to change things.
At a May 7 groundbreaking ceremony, change was the watchword as Gilmore, fellow board members Daryle Perez and Kim McCaslin Schlieker, and city officials celebrated plans for the theater, a venue planned to open on Oct. 10 on a two-acre, city-owned site at 110 N. Main St.
Construction costs are expected to reach a modest $350,000 since every dollar is coming from private donations. Also keeping costs down is Level 5 Design Group, Gilmore’s architectural firm providing design services free of charge. Gilmore is president and CEO of the firm. The $350,000 cost represents building materials for brick masonry and wood frame structure, topped by a metal roof.
The two-acre property will feature 1,030 lawn seats and accommodate about 2,000 guests. Rather than serve as the basis for broader downtown redevelopment plans, officials hope the venue inspires similar development.
“It is an isolated project but is a catalyst,” Gilmore said. “It’s hard to take up several city blocks for a huge master plan. You have to take it one block at a time.”
While Southlake, Keller and other North Texas communities have pursued town square visions, Mansfield is using the theater as a possible first step in revitalizing its historic downtown.
But speeding motorists and sheer traffic volume were roadblocks to any Main Street revitalization. So the Mansfield City Council recently struck an agreement with the Texas Department of Transportation, allowing the city to take control over the two-and-a-half portion of Main Street between Heritage Parkway and Mouser Way.
The move allowed the city to redirect truck traffic away from downtown and onto highways, making Main Street redevelopment more viable.
“The theater will be a great gathering spot for folks to come out and enjoy outdoor entertainment,” said Mayor David Cook, hoping the venue attracts townsfolk, as well as those driving in from other North Texas communities.
“It’s part of a block that is not a town square. It’s more of a strip like Magnolia,” said Cook, referring to the redeveloped portion of Fort Worth’s Magnolia Avenue between Eighth Avenue and Hemphill Street.
Before Mansfield considers broader Main Street redevelopment, it remains focused on The LOT. Kicking things off will be Sawyer Brown, whose Oct. 10 performance represents one of two concerts the venue expects to host each spring and fall.
“Proceeds made off of those two concerts justify our budget for the rest of the year,” Gilmore said of the venue’s activities budget.
From country and Cajun music to live theater, theater production will not be limited to specific genres, Gilmore said.
“There’s no specific genre that we’re gearing everything towards. It’s what the people are wanting to see down there.”