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Bellevue's PACE breaks some molds

Artist rendering shows exterior of the Performing Arts Center Eastside (PACE). -
Artist rendering shows exterior of the Performing Arts Center Eastside (PACE).
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As the Eastside’s first major performing arts center begins to take architectural shape, organizers are breaking a few molds along the way.

“I don’t want to make the last great performing arts center of the 20th Century,” said Performing Arts Center Eastside Executive (PACE) Director Jack Haynes. “That would be a big mistake.”

PACE is in charge of turning the Bellevue dream into reality.

Planners from the group already have tossed aside one traditional theater element – the box office.

A concierge desk will replace ticket windows, giving the center a more personable feel at a time when most patrons do their transactions online anyway.

The 2,000-seat facility also will cater to casually-dressed crowds and feature a multi-cultural staff to give the theater a distinctly egalitarian feel and make patrons of all backgrounds feel welcome, organizers said.

Initial designs for the new theater, slated to rise at the corner of Northeast 10th Street and 106th Avenue Northeast, include a retractable sound booth located at mid-house, as well as a glass-plated viewing area for parents tending to noisy children.

An after-show hangout also could be part of the plans.

Building a premier theater for Eastsiders constitutes the largest campaign of its kind since the Bellevue Arts Museum got its own facility in 2001.

The main players for this project are considerably far apart in age. PACE Associate Director Dana Kernich is 25, whereas Haynes is 61.

The result is an influx of fresh thought that helps Haynes avoid anything too 20th Century.

Kernich hatched a plan to use mid-career theater workers to critique the center’s preliminary designs and ensure that the facility meets the needs of employees, patrons and performers alike.

PACE recently carried through with the idea, hosting a brainstorm session that involved 10 professionals from across the country.

“It’s very rare in this industry to touch a project like this,” Kernich said.

Planning for the facility is scheduled to wrap up by February 2009, with an opening date in 2011 if PACE can get funding in time.

“Credit availability is affecting the project,” Haynes said. “We’ll start construction as soon as we can secure a sensible construction loan.”

Costs for building the center are estimated at $150 million.

PACE had $32 million on hand for its project at The Reporter deadline, although additional funds were expected from a Nov. 1 fundraising dinner and auction.

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