Design for Escondido Arts Center Will Be Unveiled

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The proposed design of Escondido's $55-million Center for the Arts, a stucco-and-glass collection of buildings connected by courtyards and arcades, will be unveiled, discussed and perhaps approved at a 6:30 p.m. public workshop today at Escondido City Hall.

The complex, approved in concept by Escondido voters in 1984, will feature a 1,550-seat performing arts theater, a 400-seat community theater, a 25,000-square-foot conference and meeting center, and a three-gallery fine arts center.

The complex will be built on Escondido Boulevard, just northwest of the new City Hall and on 12 acres now used for softball games and other recreation at the city's historic Grape Day Park. Construction is expected to begin next November, and completion is expected by the spring of 1993. The project is being financed with community redevelopment funds; today's design approval would come from the City Council sitting as the Community Development Commission.

Renzo Zecchetto, the project designer for the architectural firm of Moore Ruble Yudell of Santa Monica, says the arts complex will reflect contemporary California-Spanish architecture. The public entrance will be a courtyard off Escondido Boulevard. Around the courtyard will be the entrances into the larger Lyric Theater, the smaller community theater and the meeting center.

Connecting all four major buildings in a campus-like setting will be 16 courtyards and a series of promenades intended to serve as a flowing connection between the complex and the adjoining city park, Zecchetto said.

Adjoining parking lots will accommodate 900 cars.

The three-balcony Lyric Theater is expected to be able to host all but the largest of the touring Broadway productions, as well as symphonies, opera and dance productions. The theater is the single most expensive component of the complex, at nearly $22 million.

The theater's stage will have a sprung hardwood floor, an amenity sought by dancers and one that is not even offered at San Diego's Civic Theatre unless specially built for a particular performance, said Diane Annala, executive director of the arts center and former executive director of the San Diego Foundation for the Performing Arts.

The smaller community theater--to replace a small facility now used by the community playhouse, which is in the upstairs room of an Escondido shopping center and which relies on folding chairs--will play host to improvisational theater, lectures, fashion shows, chamber music performances and civic programs and pageants. One of the most distinctive features of the $7.8-million theater will be balcony seating, uncommon for facilities of this size.

The fine arts center will provide not only galleries for the display of paintings, sculpture, photographs and hand-crafted art works, but also studios and workshops for classes. The conference-meeting center will be the city's largest and will be able to accommodate banquets of 800 people.

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