The Listening Room was founded in 1991 by Robin Harrell as a concert series highlighting local and national singer-songwriters. However, the building that Harrell had been using to host the performances was not easily accessible, nor did it have the welcoming aesthetics expected of such a venue. This led Harrell to ask the City of Hastings (pop. 24,907) for help in securing a space that would represent an art and cultural center for the people of Hastings. The Lark in downtown Hastings is now splendidly renovated and easy to access.
To fund renovations to the building, the City secured $300,000 in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) monies, contributing to a project budget of $785,067. The total project budget, including non-CDBG activities, is $1.2 million, much of which is largely being provided through community donations. The funded building renovations meet the CDBG national objective of addressing blight issues.
The project was split into two construction phases that addressed each floor, respectively. During the first phase, the first floor was converted into a performance area, with handicapped accessible restrooms. The second phase will establish the second floor as an arts center, upon completion.
First-phase construction on The Lark began in April 2013, with doors opening in December 2013. The mezzanine level of The Lark also underwent renovations in between the two main phases, with a tentative opening in early fall 2014. The second floor is projected to open by fall 2015.
The main goal of transforming The Lark is to provide Hastings residents with a community center capable of hosting and supporting all types of public and private events. The purpose of The Lark, as stated on its website, is to “foster the arts in Hastings and surrounding communities; providing artistic and cultural growth through observation, education, inspiration and participation.” David Rippe, executive director of the Hastings Economic Development Corporation, echoed this sentiment. “The significance of The Lark and the long-term importance of its presence centers on quality community growth. With fewer and fewer people moving between zip codes in our country and with more and more people moving to urban areas, it is vitally important that rural communities develop and promote amenities and quality of life features that appeal to residents and visitors alike.” Rippe added “…it is critical that we continue to invest in ourselves and make Hastings a community of choice for talented people and quality businesses.”