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$50-Million Cost Hike May Delay Disney Hall Opening : The arts: Earthquake-related issues, rising materials cost are blamed. Backers try to develop fund-raising plan.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Walt Disney Concert Hall--slated to open its doors in 1997 as the Music Center’s new home for the Los Angeles Philharmonic--will cost $50 million more than estimated and may be forced to open later than planned, officials said Monday.

Music Center officials said that although they remain confident that Disney Hall will be built, a delay of up to six months could occur as the project’s supporters scramble to raise the additional funds in a troubled Los Angeles economy.

If a single large donor can be found, officials said the delay could be shortened or avoided entirely. But, they said, a broad-based fund-raising drive could take much longer.

The disclosure means that the cost of the hall, designed by Frank O. Gehry, will increase to about $180 million. The hall, plus a county-financed parking garage that is under construction, will now cost about $260 million, said Music Center President Shelton G. Stanfill.

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Officials blamed the increased estimate on rising materials costs and two earthquake-related factors: tighter--and more expensive--post-earthquake building requirements for steel-frame buildings, and a dearth of competitive bidding for Disney Hall construction because so many companies are busy with earthquake repair projects throughout the Los Angeles area.

Calling Disney Hall “the Eiffel Tower of Los Angeles,” Stanfill said all parties involved are committed to seeing it built. “It is so important to the future of the Music Center, and so important to Southern California, that we all have to find a way to make sure it happens,” he said.

Officials said construction will not begin “unless we know we can finish it"--that is, until 95% of the necessary extra funding can be raised.

A delay would affect the Philharmonic and the Los Angeles Music Center Opera, which was to expand its programming at the Music Center’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, now being shared by both performing arts companies.

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Stanfill said he was informed last week by an ad-hoc Disney Hall advisory committee--chaired by Music Center board Chairman Robert Egelston and Kent Kresa, Northrop Grumman Corp. chairman, that building costs had jumped 24% from the original $210-million projection.

The building costs were expected to be somewhat higher than estimated because of Gehry’s unusual design, utilizing many curves and expensive white limestone.

Egelston and the other executives said they will not try to save money by substantially changing Gehry’s dramatic design. “We’re not just going to build another building, we are going to build the Frank Gehry concert hall,” Egelston said.

The Disney Hall project was instigated in 1987 by a $50-million grant from Lillian B. Disney, the widow of Walt Disney. After her gift, concert hall construction was immediately bogged down in government tie-ups and plan changes.

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On Dec. 10, 1992, groundbreaking began on the 2,500-space Disney Hall garage. By then, accrued interest had increased the original Disney gift to $87 million and the family kicked in additional funds to bring their contribution to $93 million. County contributions and a gift from Toyota brought in additional funds, and the Music Center planned to raise another $17.5 million.

On Monday, Music Center officials said they plan to meet soon with the county, the Disney family and other players in Disney Hall to determine a plan for raising additional funds.

Disney family members and their representatives could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Music Center--the fund-raising arm of the center’s resident performing arts companies--remains committed to raising at least $17.5 million in support of the hall. The executives added that the Los Angeles Philharmonic has been and will remain active in seeking new fund-raising sources for Disney Hall.

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This year, Stanfill said, the Music Center missed its fund-raising goal of $12.75 million, raising $11.5 million for its resident companies and programs. He added that those results are pending an independent audit.

In recent years, the Music Center has been plagued with fund-raising difficulties, including an embarrassing 1991 incident in which the Music Center announced that it had met its $17.6-million goal, then was forced to admit that it had fallen $1.3 million short and had to borrow $3 million to cover its shortfall. Since then, the fund-raising goal has declined each year because of the weak economy.

Stanfill said the Music Center’s other projects, including the $17.1-million reconfiguration of its Ahmanson Theater, will not be affected by Disney Hall’s financial difficulties.

Philharmonic spokesman Stephen Belth said: “We certainly are concerned and watching carefully to be able to plan our opening season at Disney Hall. We’re confident that one day soon, we will be playing there. . . . We believe that those charged with bringing in the necessary financing will do so. At least, we hope they will.”

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Peter Hemmings, executive director of Music Center Opera, said: “This doesn’t come as a complete surprise to us; we have been aware of problems recently. (But) we are confident that the Disney Hall will open in due course. . . . Until that time, we shall continue to share, as we have done for the past eight years. Although it is not ideal, it is workable.”


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