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View from above back of crowd at Murphy Arts District concert with band illuminated on stage
Murphy Arts District

Creating an Entertainment Destination

Project Location

El Dorado, AR


El Dorado Festivals & Events

Project Type

Adaptive reuse / new construction


Amphitheater, indoor venue, restaurant, farmers market, park

A former oil boomtown, El Dorado, Arkansas has a rich history, unique historic architecture, and a well-established arts and entertainment community, which includes the South Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, the South Arkansas Arts Center, and numerous successful music festivals. Community leaders sought to develop these assets and rebrand the community as a regional arts and entertainment mecca.

Our master plan and design leverage existing historic structures and new construction to create a multi-venue downtown arts district that preserves and celebrates the identity of El Dorado while appealing to contemporary audiences and future generations. The master plan colocates performance venues in a dense cluster to maintain the historic connection from Jefferson Street to Locust Street and to exploit synergies among the venues and other entertainment uses. The project utilized state and federal historic tax credits for project equity. We provided master planning; architecture; interiors, electrical, mechanical, and structural engineering; acoustics; audiovisual; information transport; life safety & security; preservation; and theater technical design services.

Master Plan

The overall master plan encompasses a 125,868-SF site and comprises a 7,000-patron festival venue/amphitheater, a 2,000-seat indoor music venue, a 100-seat black box/multi-purpose room, an 850-seat multi-use theater, a restaurant/club with stage, a visual arts facility, a farmers' market, a children's activity center, a park, and considerable site improvements for festivals along with new structures to support that use.


A Downtown Entertainment District

The first phase of the Murphy Arts District transforms the Griffin Auto Building, an abandoned historic filling station and automotive showroom, into a 300-seat cabaret restaurant and 2,000-seat music venue. The adjacent lot, once a horse-riding ring, has been redeveloped into an amphitheater festival site for 7,000 patrons with a new exterior covered stage and support facilities. A section of the lot was reserved for use as a farmers’ market and the city’s largest park. The three venues allow for simultaneous performances for a large festival event or smaller individual shows. The lower level of the Griffin provides shared support spaces for the venues including concessions, restrooms, dressing rooms, performer spaces, and staff offices. The building itself restores the original detail of the existing structure while using an industrial aesthetic for new elements referencing its former use.

Red lounge seating on mezzanine with couches, chairs, stools, and tables

VIP lounge seating within the indoor music venue.

Corner view from sidewalk of glass and concrete building with people on second floor balcony at back

Providing shared support space for the indoor and outdoor venues, the expansion of the historic Griffin Auto Building uses an industrial aesthetic, referencing its former use.

Future Phases

Theaters and Art Galleries

Future phases will renovate the Rialto Theatre with an expanded stagehouse to house the South Arkansas Symphony, and local and regional companies, and to serve as a presenting house for traveling shows. The McWilliams Building, a four-story, former furniture store and warehouse, will be adapted as a center for visual arts, artists-in-residence, arts education programs, and offices. The Trinca Building, a single-story former bus depot, will function as a reception space connecting the theater and visual arts center.

People stand at the bar in front right of image while others sit watching performance on stage of historic theater

Featuring a flexible pit/forestage lift, the renovated Rialto Theatre will convert into a black box.

Circular wood finished reception desk in exposed brick room with industrial steel trusses above

The McWilliams Building, a former furniture store/warehouse, will be adapted as a center for visual arts, artists-in-residence, arts education programs, and offices.


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