Newport Beach’s $12.8M library lecture hall to be named for a longtime supporter

A conceptual drawing for the exterior of the proposed Newport Beach Library Lecture Hall project.
A conceptual drawing for the exterior of the proposed Newport Beach Library Lecture Hall project, which will now be named Witte Hall, after a longtime library supporter.
(Courtesy of the Newport Beach Public Library Foundation)

The new library lecture hall in Newport Beach will be named Witte Hall with approval from City Council Tuesday night.

The Newport Beach Public Library Foundation director of programs Kunga Wangmo-Upshaw confirmed Wednesday the foundation received a commitment of $4 million from Bill Witte and Keiko Sakamoto to finance the construction of the $12.8-million building.

The cost of the lecture hall is to be evenly split between the city and the Newport Beach Public Library Foundation, which chief executive officer Jerold Kappel said is now about 80% achieved.

Kappel said the foundation has close to $5 million — including the $4 million Witte-Sakamoto gift — in confirmed pledges but noted there are still naming opportunities that will go before the City Council for approval.

Plans for the project were approved in November last year.

“The late Martin Witte, our patriarch and the namesake of the Witte Lectures, was an early and enthusiastic champion of the Newport Beach Public Library,” said Witte and Sakamoto in a statement released Tuesday night. “A longtime supporter of public institutions and dialogue, he would be so proud.”

The name Witte Hall will appear on the front of the building at the library entrance and on the Avocado Avenue monument signage.

The project is expected to encompass about 9,500 square feet and include seating for up to 299 people.

The building, first proposed in 2019, will be situated next to the library courtyard, near the offices of the library staff and the Friends Room, which opened with the library in 1994.

Groundbreaking for the project is expected to take place in 2023, and Witte Hall’s grand opening is slated for 2024.

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