Work is expected to start this fall on the Center for Art and Education’s new $4 million art education and gallery facility in downtown Van Buren.

“We are close to hiring a construction management firm,” Rusty Myers told those attending Tuesday’s Van Buren Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours at the current CAE location at 104 Cherry St.

Myers said the art center has raised about $1.4 million and expects to qualify for a $400,000 tax credit.

“That puts us a $1.8 million in our effort to obtain a $2 million challenge grant from the Windgate Foundation,” he said. “Windgate has told use to move ahead with the project. They have said they have faith in us.”

Center for Art and Education has purchased two buildings in the 400 block of Main Street. The structures are adjacent to the historic King Opera House.

Plans include the acquisition and development of a half-block area of open-space property behind the building as a landscaped park, sculpture garden and outside events area for the CAE and community.

Terry Carson, president of the Van Buren Chamber of Commerce, said he could foresee the south end of Main Street becoming an “art and theater district.”

Myers said the Center for Art and Education is an important part of the community and “one of the good things going on in Van Buren.

“Moving the facility to better accommodations will better serve the children and adults in the region,” Myers said. “CAE will be going from its current 3,300 square feet to about 14,00 square feet. This will be a big ‘wod’ in terms of the facility’s ability to expand its programs.”

CAE director Jane Owen said there is always something going on at the art center.

“And, with more room, we will be able to expand our art and education classes,” she said.

Brent Gunnels, the center’s community relations manager, said CAE has expanded its programs in Van Buren schools to include more than 1,200 students.

“With the help of the Van Buren School District, we have an an amazing and wonderful program in Van Buren schools,” Gunnels said.