Yesterday afternoon the Arts Culture and Libraries Committee took its quick tour of the construction site that will soon be the City Performance Hall, which they hope somebody might want to rent out at some point. City council members Ann Margolin, Jerry Allen and Delia Jasso called their committee meeting to order in the underground parking lot of the space, then donned hard hats and journeyed upstairs to take a look, joined by two Cultural Affairs Commission members, Gail Sachson and Roger Carroll, as well as Assistant City Manager Joey Zapata (these people, they travel with a posse). They were escorted 'round by Kirk Johnson of Corgan Associates, one of the two architecture firms working on the project, and Maria Munoz-Blanco, the director of the Office of Cultural Affairs.
"You're the first VIPs to visit our building," Munoz-Blanco told the group. "We're thrilled."
Johnson led the group first into the main lobby, which features a bank of windows from floor to ceiling. They'll offer a "breathtaking view" of the Arts District, he told them. Next they walked through to the main performance area, which will feature 750 seats -- 500 on the main floor and 250 in the balcony -- as well as "undulating concrete walls" for acoustics and an LED "light curtain" onstage. The lobby and another upstairs room will also have performance spaces, each of which will be able to seat around 200.
Several of Unfair Park asked yesterday about those smaller spaces. We asked Munoz-Blanco to clarify when they'll be finished out. She says today, via email, that they're part of a second phase of construction, which, she explains. "is subject to a future bond program. The space where it will be built is the concrete area between the current building outer wall and Jack Evans. The foundation of the site in Phase I is built to accommodate Phase II when funds become available."
The building is LEED certified, he added, and features "local limestone" and metal byproducts. Jerry Allen enthusiastically snapped cell phone photos as they walked.
In the green room area for performers, there will be two "star dressing areas" and a main lobby for everyone to gather; it also features large windows, with a big street view and lots of natural light, which Munoz-Blanco told the group is unusual. "Usually they're stuck down in the basement," she said.
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There's also a private meditation garden just outside, "to help them as they prepare for performances," Johnson said.
"Or smoke," someone cracked. (Not us.)
"It's just a classy experience for 'em," Allen said, beaming.
But Munoz-Blanco told the group, as she told us Monday, they're still having a spot of trouble renting the hall, which is scheduled to open close to September 2012. Part of the problem, she said, is that "other venues have developed a clientele by now." She said the staff is "re-looking at the price structure," as well as "pursuing concessionaires to bring some revenue." She said the rates are "very competitive" with the Winspear, the Meyerson and other local performance spaces.