The $4.6-million renovations to the Washington Center for the Performing Arts will be done in just weeks, and Olympia is ready for the economic boost of the venues events parade there to start up again.
“Little by little, you can see the new siding going up,” the facility's team wrote on its latest blog. “As things progress, it's starting to look like a building again, instead of just a construction site.”
The core of the project was to replace the Center's worn stucco exterior with a brick and stone facade, as well as to build a new marquee. Outer renovations for that site have been at the head of the list for City projects for several years, after compromised walls that were a safety hazard to the building were discovered in a 2008 report.
Construction began months ago, and was slated to wrap up this week, just as the busy fall and winter events season began. However, due to inclement weather and other minor snafus, that timeline has been pushed back in recent days, said marketing and special events director Anne Matheson.
At press time, the plan is for exterior work to continue through November 24. At that point, crews will take a break, and construction scaffolding will come down for six weeks to allow access for local holiday shopping and Performing Arts Center event attendance. On three sides, the block will be finished; on the entrance streetscape, the scaffolding will be replaced by an 8-foot-high plywood barrier adorned with murals by a local artist, which will later be auctioned off for fundraising.
Matheson said the team is just grateful for neighbor retail tenants who have been patient throughout the whole process.
“After having to put up with all of the construction, it will be wonderful to provide them with the gift of finally having everything looking beautiful, and through that attracting more people to exploring and shopping in this neighborhood,” she said.
While exterior renovations will continue for some weeks into the new year, now at least inside carpets have been laid, and furniture has been arranged. The staff is in occupancy, and ready to go for the event lineup that begins in three days.
That's great economic news for the city, as the Center is the South Sound's largest performing arts facility. More than 2 million guests annually attend venues here, ranging from major entertainment acts to cultural shows to public and private events large and small. The main proscenium theater has four tiers and 984 seats, and there's another, smaller Stage II “black box” theater tucked in, too; each has its own separate, swanky lobby. Recent interior additions, like satellite conference capabilities, theater light-and-sound packages, and high-speed Internet access, have brought the site into the 21st century, and have helped make it a key business and tourism draw to Olympia.
The building itself, opened nearly 30 years ago on the grounds of the razed 1924 Liberty Theater vaudeville house, is actually owned by the City. The Washington Center for the Performing Arts is a private, not-for-profit organization with a long-term contract to operate the center, and touts the strength of its unusually successful public-private partnership success story.
Together, along with Corp. Inc. Construction of Salem, Oregon, the partners came up with the vision for the new site, which will retain elements of the original 1924 architecture. Besides the freshened facade, the building will receive custom windows and glass doors, a ticket sales booth, stone cladding above a new, lighted front canopy, special poster display areas along the walls, and a new marquee sign.
Funding for the construction comes partly via the City, after the council earlier approved a $3.3 million contract with Corp. To make up the other $1.3 million, the City is borrowing roughly $5 million, on top of an $816,000 grant earmarked within a state budget proposal.
First up for the Center is a champagne reception and its season-opening performance 5 to 6:30 p.m. on October 3, the West Coast debut of Jon Batiste and Stay Human. New executive director Jill Barnes will also be on hand for the event, and activities will include bidding on and a showcase for the Center Gallery 2013 Art Auction.