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Theater arts and math | Bellevue Youth Theatre project superintendent says project is complex, intricate

A flag waves atop the Bellevue Youth Theatre under construction near the Crossroads Community Center. It's tradition to put something at the high point of a project, said Steve Kathman, project superintendent for Pease Construction — much like a climber on a summit. And in his 29 years in the business, Kathman says the 12,000-square-foot theater is his most challenging venture yet.

Building segments of a circular design for the theater, being built into the side of a hill, there are multiple radiuses and angles to consider.

"Then you have flat walls in between," said Kathman. "It's a lot of intricate math."

The $8.8-million theater construction project started last May and is funded by a $2 million match from the city through a voter-approved parks levy in 2008 and an additional $2.5 million in from King County Green Building and 4Culture grants. The Bellevue Youth Theatre Foundation is just $100,000 shy of raising the $1 million it has committed to the project.

With up to 20 workers tackling the project five days a week, the theater is expected to be completed by late 2014. Kathman said additional concrete for the roof will be poured on April 7. From the interior of the theater, the ceiling is being braced with a series of poles that will be removed once the concrete settles, but Kathman said there will be a lot of testing after to make sure it will hold.

Aiming for a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design gold certification, the roof will be covered with layers of dirt, gravel and then sod. Dug up earth around the roof will be backfilled and a guard net will be used to keep the landscaped roof in place. The guard net looks like the inside of a beehive, said Kathman. Once completed, people will be able to congregate on the roof, if they like, which will blend in with the surrounding greenery.

The theater will also include a geothermal wells heating system 300 feet underground. Natural lighting will be achieved through window trumpets in the roof that extend out like rocks on a hill.

Crossroads community members are already seeing site improvements around the theater, including a pathway from the community center to the existing park trail there. That pathway will be further extended once construction is completed.

The Bellevue Youth Theatre started in 1990 as a recreational program at the Crossroads Community Center before moving its acts over to the former Ivanhoe Elementary School. The city looked at renovating the school, said project manager Pam Fehrman, but the cost to bring the building up to code was too great. A feasibility study determined land adjacent to the community center was well-suited for the project. Fehrman said Ivanhoe will continue to be used for practices and smaller performances.

Fehrman said the first play to be performed inside the new theater will be decided within the next few weeks. Becker Architects is the project architect for the theater and providing the flyover video below.

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