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Huntington Beach Art Center’s Opening Is Stalled Again

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The opening of the Huntington Beach Art Center, postponed numerous times over the past three years, has been pushed back yet again because of a decision to replace the general contractor refurbishing the building the center is to occupy.

According to city cultural services manager Michael Mudd, city officials and the Lewis Jorge Co. agreed to terminate their contract because, after the contractor had completed about 80% of the project, he wanted an additional $440,000 to address an unforeseen roof structure problem.

“We have two estimates to get the same work done for 30% to 50% less,” said Mudd, who now puts the center’s opening date--once slated for 1991 and most recently for May--at early March. Five full-time employees will be hired to run the center and will start working there in December, Mudd said.

But, he added, no work has been done on the center building in downtown Huntington Beach for about four months, and some artists lined up for the inaugural exhibition, already twice postponed, have dropped out.

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Still, he continued, no private donors who contributed to the $1.3-million refurbishment have withdrawn their support. Mudd also noted that reconstruction projects often are delayed by structural complications discovered after work has started.

“It’s frustrating,” he said, “but anyone who has done restoration work understands (such complications) and the extra time needed to get the work done.”

The private Huntington Beach Art Center Foundation has raised about $750,000 toward the reconstruction. It hopes to drum up another $75,000 this weekend with its fifth annual benefit equestrian competition. The difference will be loaned by the city, Mudd said.

The competition, billed as the GTE “The Everything Pages” Summer Classic V, started Friday and will continue today and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Huntington Central Park Equestrian Center. VIP tickets, which include lunch each day and reserved seats, are $75 to $125. Unreserved-seating admission is free. (714) 536-5258.

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