West Marin organizers are considering a performing arts center

An architectural firm was hired to envision the creation of a high-tech, high-acoustic performing arts center in the San Geronimo Valley.

Lagunitas School District administrators voted 5-0 at a special meeting last month to retain Berkeley-based Noll & Tam Architects to complete a $48,450 feasibility study. The study is expected to be completed by January and will include feedback from future community meetings.

“We’re in the study phase — there’s no commitment yet,” said Dave Cort, executive director of the San Geronimo Valley Community Center, the school district’s partner in the proposed joint-use project. “We’re trying to build that and build momentum.”

The architectural firm will examine a range of options to remodel a one-story, 2,000-square-foot building on Lagunitas School’s lower campus. The vision is to use the building’s footprint to create a modern indoor-outdoor venue for plays, shows, musical performances, open-mic nights, lectures, poetry readings and other events. arts for the school and the community.

“It’s exciting to be on the ground floor of this transformative new project,” said Laura Shain, assistant superintendent and school district superintendent. “This proposed joint-use facility combines the distinct vision and opportunities of the Lagunitas School District and the Community Center.”

The community center is funding the feasibility study on the building, which is owned by the school district. The building, which was constructed about 60 years ago, once housed a science classroom and then a branch of the Marin County Library. The library was closed during budget cuts in 2009, Cort said.

Since then, the building has lain largely unused, with the exception of housing the school library, which would be moved to upper campus if the project went ahead.

The overall project, which would trigger a fundraising campaign next year, could range from $1 million to $2 million, depending on the options the school community and residents want, said Alexa Davidson, a community center staff member working on proposal.

“It’s a big project,” Davidson said.

Amos Klausner, Chairman of the Board of Lagunitas, emphasized that no plan moves forward until partners and the community are aligned.

“We are still in the very early stages of trying to understand what is possible and what stakeholders want,” Klausner said. “The current or initial phase of the project that has just started is focused on that.”

Klausner said the feasibility study should produce options as well as a range of costs.

“After that, if the community center wants to pursue a specific option, they will present it to the school board and the board will vote on whether to go ahead or not,” Klausner said.

The district’s and community center’s last joint-use project was a $5 million gym and teen center completed in 2009. Cort said the two-story, 10,000-square-foot center was successful from the start. beginning and was still in use.

“It was like Grand Central Station from day one,” he said. “It was a generational project.”

He said he expects the performing arts center to have the same impact and be enjoyed by successive generations.

“We know it’s a gap in the community to have dedicated space for theater and cultural events,” Cort said.

“It will give us a place where our community can thrive,” he said. “We want to make sure the acoustics, lighting and design are really good.”

He said the closest venues for big shows are the Dance Palace at Point Reyes Station and Archie Williams High School in San Anselmo.

The community center offers after-school dance, arts, kung fu and drama classes, but they have to juggle for the same limited space and there is no room to perform, said Court.

According to documents released at the September 15 special board meeting, construction could begin in early 2024 and be completed by the fall if all approvals and funds are received. The project is subject to design approval by the Division of State Architects, which governs the construction of public schools in California.

“For us, I imagine our students of all ages enjoying a glorious milestone with built-in technology support,” Shain said.

“Think poetry readings, theater and musical performances,” she said. “Beyond the microphones is the ability to make movies, watch movies, record, and do VR projects.”

Cort said the center and school are aware that children and adults in the community are hungry for social contact and artistic expression as families emerge from the pandemic.

“We see this through a health and wellness lens,” Cort said. “Right now, parents and children have been so challenged over the past three years. We all recognize the importance of social and emotional health and artistic expression.