The feasibility study is essentially a thoroughly researched business planning document. It is usually commissioned by a not-for-profit client group to determine the best option for delivering a community service.
When an organization is considering a facility development project, a feasibility study is often required by governing bodies and prospective funders as a matter of due diligence. A methodical planning process facilitated by independent expert consultants can mitigate the risks involved with a potentially significant capital expenditure.
There are several circumstances that prompt a facility-oriented feasibility study:
The study process is slightly more complicated when the focus is on an emerging cultural provider or a building in search of a use, but all feasibilities studies should begin with a Market, Needs and/or Business Feasibility Study that identifies the preferred programs, assumptions and conditions of the planning process.
A program or business development process is likely to require the following sequence of feasibility studies:
1. Market, Needs and/or Business Feasibility Study
2. Architectural Feasibility Study
3. Fund Raising Feasibility Study
The studies may be done independently by different types of consultants, or the first two may be combined in a Business/Architectural Feasibility Study and commissioned from a consulting team of management consultant(s) and architect(s).
The market, needs and/or business feasibility study is a preliminary study to define or test a program development concept. Once the program and business plan or growth plan is researched, defined and described, it may have implications for facility development. With a well prepared program brief, the client group may proceed to undertake an architectural feasibility study. When the potential scale and scope of the project has been defined by building professionals, the operating implications should be revisited, together with financing options. Finally, the fund raising feasibility study develops and tests the case for support by sharing the program and architectural proposal with potential donors to determine an achievable fund raising goal.
Each of the feasibility studies should be managed by objective consultants specializing in planning, management, design and operations of the facility in question – whether it is a theatre, art gallery, artist-run centre or community cultural centre. Restoration, or adaptive reuse, requires another level of expertise in heritage preservation practices.
In the best interests of the philosophy “form follows function,” it is recommended that an arts planning or management specialist should be the first consultant engaged in the process. It is likely that they will bring the greatest degree of expertise and objectivity to the questions of whether a building project may be warranted to deliver or expand artistic programming in a given community environment. They should help you take a hard look at whether your organization will have the capacity to sustain a new or expanded facility. And, typically, the planning or business management consultant can help keep a project focused on mission and organizational capacity when it is in danger of being seduced prematurely by design possibilities or a particular site.
Each project or potential project is unique and has its specific requirements, but a comprehensive Business/Architectural feasibility assessment should by led by a business planning consultant and address the following areas:
a. Needs and Market Assessment
b. Activity or Use Program
c. Facility Analysis (including a preliminary space or building program)
d. Resource Analysis (including capital and operating cost implications)
e. Synthesis and Action Plans
Depending on the potential scope of the project and the amount of original research, detail and design development required by the client, the cost of the study can range between $35,000 and $250,000. More commonly, theatre feasibility studies cost between $50,000 and $100,000. The most experienced consultants can provide the client with a valuable process and constructive document for that price range.
On the following page is a list of the subjects which may be covered in a comprehensive business and architectural theatre feasibility study.