maroon wave
"Hairspray" production
Performances like SU's Bobbi Biron Theatre Program production of "Hairspray," pictured, could make their way to downtown Salisbury as part of the University's proposed fine and performing arts center.

Wicomico County Council Approves Agreement as First Step Toward Realizing SU Performing Arts Center

By SU Public Relations

SALISBURY, MD---A plan for a new Salisbury University performing arts center in downtown Salisbury is moving forward following an overwhelmingly positive Wicomico County Council vote that will provide SU with the property to build the facility.

Council members voted 6-1 to allow a $1-per-year lease of the University-owned building at 909 S. Schumaker Drive, along with approximately 10 surrounding acres, for up to 30 years to facilitate moving the Wicomico County Library’s flagship facility, the Paul S. Sarbanes Library, to that property. Speakers at the meeting noted this transaction would provide Wicomico County with the nicest library on the Eastern Shore and possibly all of Maryland.

In exchange, SU will acquire the library’s current location at 122 S. Division St., with plans to demolish the building and construct a performing arts center. The project represents a $100 million investment in downtown Salisbury.

“Salisbury University is excited for the opportunity to expand its presence in downtown Salisbury,” said Dr. Maarten Pereboom, dean of SU’s Charles R. and Martha N. Fulton School of Liberal Arts. “The new performing arts center will serve not only as a new venue for the arts at SU, but as a space for education and community engagement beyond the traditional University campus with a sizable economic impact on the region.”

While the relocated Sarbanes branch will remain the county’s flagship library, a smaller library will be established in downtown Salisbury, continuing to provide walkable resources for community members in that area.

The need for a new library building has become more urgent in recent years as the downtown facility faces a crossroads near the end of its expected lifespan. Last renovated in 1980, the building is in need of some $15.7 million in upgrades, according to a 2022 feasibility study. Replacing the building at its current location would cost an estimated $26 million, according to the study.

As part of the agreement, library officials would be responsible for approximately $8 million in renovations at the Schumaker Drive building, including replacing an HVAC system that failed in 2022, necessitating the building’s closure to the public since then. With the recent council vote, the library is eligible to request up to 84% of that cost be covered through the Maryland State Library Agency’s Capital Grants Program, which would leave the county with a total out-of-pocket cost of about $1.25 million.

In addition to the cost savings vs. remaining at its current site, the move also is expected to allow the library to provide nature education and programming at the Schumaker Drive location, and to reopen the picturesque grounds to the public.

At the council meeting, Seth Hershberger, Wicomico County Library director, noted that downtown development has made parking more of a challenge for those who most often frequent the library, including the elderly and families with young children. He expects the 130 free parking spaces at the Schumaker Drive building to provide better accessibility for those populations.

SU is in discussions with the City of Salisbury regarding the need for additional and dedicated parking downtown and public transportation to best accommodate the planned performing arts center, and expects solutions to be in place before the center opens in four to five years. Hershberger also noted the library has been in talks with Shore Transit to discuss the need for a bus stop near its new home on Schumaker Drive.

Learn more about SU and opportunities to Make Tomorrow Yours at the SU website.