Center for the Arts expansion plan takes first step with city | TheUnion.com

Center for the Arts expansion plan takes first step with city

The Grass Valley Center for the Arts is proposing an expansion of its facility that, if approved by the city, could nearly double the capacity of its theatre.

Amber Jo Manuel, the center's interim executive director, said the performing arts center is in dire need of an upgrade.

Deferred maintenance issues, including a leaky roof and broken seats, have piled up, Manuel said, and accessibility for people with disabilities needs to be improved.

The center often rents out alternative venues, including the Grass Valley Veterans Hall, in order to provide room for large audiences at its high- profile shows.

If expanded, the center would be able to host more events on-site, Manuel said.

The center proposes building a two-story, 2,400 square foot addition to its 20,000 square foot facility.

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The addition would increase the maximum capacity of the center's main theatre from about 380 guests — including both seated and standing patrons — to around 750, according to Manuel. She said the larger, improved venue would still maintain its intimate feel.

The project is expected to cost about $3.6 million — money that Manuel said will come entirely from public donations.

The center plans to soon ramp up a capital campaign in order to fund the expansion project.

A cultural asset

Eliza Tudor, executive director of the Nevada County Arts Council, said the center, in continuous operation since 1998, played an important role in Grass Valley and Nevada City's successful application for designation as a cultural district.

"We hope that, being one of several key jewels in Nevada County's crown, the center will be able to leverage support for its much-needed physical improvements, and that it can safeguard its place into the future as a key cultural asset," she said.

City approval

The site currently has 36 parking spaces, seven of which would be lost due to the expansion. The center proposes paying fees to the city in order to make up for those lost spaces — money which Tom Last, Grass Valley's community development director, said would go into a fund specifically designated for city parking projects.

Grass Valley's development review committee on Wednesday recommended the city's planning commission approve the proposed expansion at its Jan. 16 meeting.

According to Last, the center's proposed project is consistent with a "Center for the Arts Facility Master Plan" adopted by the City Council in 2010, which laid out various recommendations for facility upgrades.

According to Manuel, the center has been planning an expansion since the time the master plan was adopted, but construction was put on the backburner due to a lack of funding. Those plans are now moving forward, she said.

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Pera, email mpera@theunion.com or call 530-477-4231.