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Work resumes on Valley Performing Arts Center

April 20, 2009|Ann M. Simmons
  • Ironworkers are back on the job at Cal State Northridge, where completion of the new $125-million arts center is expected by summer 2010. Symphonies, dance, film, lectures and Broadway productions are expected. A grand opening is planned for early 2011.
Ironworkers are back on the job at Cal State Northridge, where completion… (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles…)

Steve Galland gestured toward the towering steel beams and pillars that dominate the sprawling construction site of the future Valley Performing Arts Center on the northwest corner of the Cal State campus in Northridge.

"The three columns over there represent the main entrance," Galland, a senior superintendent for C.W. Driver construction company, told a group of visitors to the site last week. "And over there is where the reflecting pool and sculpture will sit. Right there is the first balcony. You're going to be able to reach out and touch the person on stage."

The state's budget crisis had brought construction of the $125-million 1,700-seat performing arts center to a temporary halt in December, sparking concerns that completion might be delayed. But in March, workers were back on the job.

Sam Huleis, a senior project manager for the builder, said his crew was racing to get back on track. "We're running on all cylinders right now," Galland said.

The performing arts theater is one of the largest building projects underway in the San Fernando Valley. Work is expected to be completed by summer 2010, with a grand opening scheduled in early 2011, university officials said.

This is music to the ears of long-time supporters of the project.

The project has widespread community and political support.

Despite a population of roughly 2 million, the San Fernando Valley has for years lacked a performing arts venue capable of showcasing large professional concerts and theater productions. The only options for residents are in downtown Los Angeles, 25 miles away.

"This is a historic step for the Valley," said Vance Peterson, vice president of the University Advancement division at Cal State Northridge. "It is a symbol of an important step in the quality of life" for area residents.

The steel-framed, glass-paneled theater was designed by the Minneapolis-based architectural firm of Hammel, Green and Abrahamson.

The hall will boast state-of-the-art acoustics and the stage will be 188 feet wide. Other amenities include a 200-seat flexible-use theater for experimental and smaller-scale productions; two full-size rehearsal sites; interior and exterior public and entertainment areas; a lecture hall and laboratories.

Programming will include major symphonies, dance, film, lectures and Broadway productions.

"Everything that would be expected in a world-class performing arts venue will be found in this facility when it opens," Peterson said.

State funding will cover $75 million of the cost of building, with the remaining $50 million coming from private donations. So far, around $21 million has been raised privately, Peterson said. A campaign committee is working on securing the remaining amount through fundraising.

"We're hoping that as the economic slowdown begins to turn back up, people will remember us and make a commitment," said Nicholas T. Goldsborough, special consultant for the Valley Performing Arts Center's fundraising campaign.

Los Angeles attorney David Fleming and his wife, Jean, have pledged $1 million toward construction of the center. The grand staircase in the building's main lobby will be named in their honor.

"I've lived in the Valley for 55 years, and this is probably the single most important edifice I've ever seen built" here, Fleming said.

"This will be a milestone for our area. It extends the great social asset of enjoyment of the arts to people who cannot usually partake of this due to travel time and distance."

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ann.simmons@latimes.com

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