Updated at 1:45 p.m. March 2, 2012
It was a tight fit—finding room for the new performing arts complex at Helix Charter High School. But the decades-old theater it will replace was even tighter quarters.
Wednesday afternoon, Helix, school district and civic leaders gathered for a groundbreaking of the two-story center that will feature a 410-seat theater, dance studio and choral, costume and recital rooms—as well as digital music labs and a costume shop.
The parking lot on the southeast side of campus next to Benton Hart Stadium is a maze of green fences and detours as a result of work begun in mid-December. But the $15.2 million, 34,194-square-foot project—which includes new parking—was touted Wednesday as an end to other challenges.
“It’s a tight site,” said Eric Jones of the architectural firm LPA of Irvine. He says the current sloped parking lot will be flattened and have “quite a bit of contouring” when the work ends by May 2013.
Employing 200 to 300 people, depending on the phase, the project is funded by the voter-approved Proposition U bond of 2008.
District voters were thanked by speakers ranging from Helix Executive Director Rani Goyal to Superintendent Ralf Swenson of the Grossmont Union High School District and two school board presidents (Brian Kick of Helix and Robert Shield of the GUHSD).
Pad preparation was under way in the background Wednesday, with heavy equipment being used to dig as deep as 9 feet in “overexcavation” of the site, said Victor Giudici, the construction contractor administrator.
But as Performing Arts Department Chair Gregg Osborn told a crowd of 60: “No longer will theater directors here have to challenge themselves creatively to put a cast of 30-plus on a stage built for 12-15 actors” in a theater that seats only 111—and leaks on rainy days.
Also making remarks was sophomore Robert Bradvica, a professional actor listed in the Internet Movie Database.
“I was kind of surprised when they asked me to speak, because mainly I thought they expected I would not be taking this seriously,” said Robert, 16. But he was, saying: “I’d like to thank the community on behalf of the students” and shared his excitement at the prospect of performing in the new theater.
Mayor Art Madrid and Councilman Mark Arapostathis (longtime Peter Pan Junior Theater director) were on hand on a sunny but windy day with temps in the high-50s along with Police Chief Ed Aceves, a former member of the Helix Charter school board.
A “dramatic” two-story glass entry is promised for the complex, which officials say is set to become the new main entrance to the campus alongside the new administration building and gymnasium.
Besides LPA, the project team includes program manager Gafcon Inc., general contractor Summit Builders and construction manager Turner Construction.