The $24.4 million project — one of several major new buildings that are remaking the Paly campus — was unanimously approved by the Board of Education on Tuesday night. School leaders said they envision the new center serving Paly students for the next 50 to 100 years.
The upgrades at Paly — which include a new Media Arts Center and new two-story classroom building for math and social studies now under construction — are part of a district-wide $378 million facilities bond program approved by voters in June 2008.
The 26,000-square-foot Performing Arts Center is scheduled for completion in 2015 — and won't begin until summer 2013 because designs must first pass through the Division of the State Architect. The state approval process, which can take up to a year, is required for all school construction in California.
Paly's new performance center — planners insist it's much more than a simple "theater" — will have flexible seating accommodating up to 583. It will include an orchestra pit and trap room, full fly loft, green rooms with adjacent toilet and dressing rooms, control room and tech-equipment support rooms. It also will include a lobby, ticket sales, concession and display area as well as a performing-arts classroom and office.
The center will be built on the Embarcadero Road side of campus across a plaza (now parking lot) from the existing Haymarket Theatre. The century-old Haymarket, which seats about 550, will be renovated at a later date.
A school-based "facilities steering committee," including teachers, parents and administrators, vetted the design process for the new center.
Key faculty members, including choir director Michael Najar, had argued that a lower seating capacity — closer to 450 — would be more in tune with instructional needs. A house approaching 600 seats will feel empty on many occasions, the teachers warned.
But school board members, anticipating enrollment growth and a need to accommodate a full grade-level on many occasions, pressed for a higher capacity.
"We probably won't have another opportunity to do something like this for 50 to 100 years. So if we have a substantially larger student body, this is the facility we're going to have," board member Melissa Baten Caswell said.
In December designers presented a compromise of sorts, adding upper side boxes to the house fitted with 95 removable seats. Seats can be loaded for maximum capacity, or removed and stored in storage space provided.
Other major projects underway at Paly include a new, two-story classroom building to house the math and social studies department. It will have 27 classrooms and is slated for occupancy in the summer of 2013.
A Media Arts Center to house Paly's extensive journalism programs is also under construction, with a timetable similar to that of the new classroom building.
More information on the Paly projects, as well as on bond construction projects on other campuses, can be found at www.pausd.org under "bond program."