Project Summary
Highlands Performing Arts Center

Providing a premier entertainment space that reflects the high-caliber talent of the local community

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The Space
Square Footage 15,000
Location Highlands, NC
The Highlands Performing Arts Center provides the community with a first-class entertainment and performance venue. The PAC, as it’s known around town, features a new 300-seat theater with sky-high ceilings designed and constructed to offer rich acoustics throughout. Outside of the theater, guests have access to a full-service bar and comfortable seating where they can relax until curtain.

Inclement Weather, Precarious Location Required Detailed Planning

Tucked on the quiet mountain respite of one of the highest towns east of the Mississippi, this project site came with a host of environmental challenges for the project team and trade partners. In addition to relying on one route in and out of the area that could support the weight of the massive precast walls and other supplies, the project team was operating in a town that sits at an elevation of 4,118 feet within a temperate rainforest. These factors presented both rainy and snowy conditions that required extensive coordination between the stakeholders, trade partners, and project team.

Due to these and other challenging conditions, many projects in the Highlands extend significantly beyond their originally projected completion dates; however, due to the expertise, experience, and thorough planning of the Choate project team and key stakeholders, the Highlands Performing Arts Center was delivered early and under budget.

The Specs & Construction Process

Expanding on the property’s existing auditorium, the ground-up construction of the Performing Arts Center incorporated both wood paneling and precast metal.

Construction began in July, and with the hazardous conditions of fall and winter approaching quickly, the project team had to work quickly and efficiently to complete the roofing portion of the project by Thanksgiving. At the time, roofing materials were difficult to secure with lead times hovering around one year. However, thanks to a strong network of industry partners, the Choate team was able to obtain the materials needed to complete the roof before the harsh conditions set in.

In order to protect the exposed finished concrete flooring, the project team completed all steel beams, catwalks, and other ceiling work in the auditorium before placing the concrete slab.

To ensure a seamless fit between the old and new buildings – as well as visual cohesion between the varied siding materials used – the project team installed expansion joints at four separate points, expertly filling and waterproofing roughly four-inch gaps to provide a high-quality product.


Working closely with the acoustics specialists and trade partners, the project’s superintendent was dedicated to ensuring the design was honored and the acoustical considerations were in constant focus. To maximize sound quality of the structure, execution of the plans created in the design phase was a delicate and intricate aspect of the construction process as each bend, curve, and straight walkway were minutely calculated to provide guests with the best audial experience possible.

Further amplifying the acoustic capabilities of this entertainment space, all mechanical systems were installed around the perimeter of the theater, rather than using overhead units that are commonplace in many other construction projects. This provided a “bubble” of sorts that allowed the sound in the theater to travel – uninterrupted – richly throughout the room.


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Horseshoe at Hub Research Triangle Park

Energizing the work-live-play experience in the heart of Research Triangle Park


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