Performing Arts Center Eastside is becoming closer to a reality

A new CEO and team are reviving the dream of creating a 21st century cultural arts hub to the Eastside.

A performing arts center is coming to the Eastside.

Well, eventually.

For decades, Bellevue has been working to realize a dream of erecting a tech-forward performing arts center in Bellevue Square. Performing Arts Center Eastside (PACE) was first introduced in 2003. However, due to a change in leadership and design, the project was tabled for years.

Now, with a new project CEO and a new vision and development team, PACE is coming closer to becoming a reality.

Since his arrival to Bellevue in summer 2018, Ray Cullom has been the catalyst for PACE’s new vision: bringing together arts, culture and technology to create a 21st century cultural arts hub to serve Eastside residents and their families for generations. He has a history of working on the development of new performing arts spaces — both commercial and nonprofit — and on the programming of exciting arts and cultural events all over the world.

Alongside Cullom, PACE’s vision and development team include:Microsoft Garage Envisioneer, Mike Pell

ARVR Academy Founder & CEO, Michael Nassirian

General Manager of XBOX Emerging Markets at Microsoft, Bambo Sofola

Eric Vonderscheer of GLY Construction

Designer and Artist at Valve Corporation, Lawrence Yang

Alys Holden, Director of Production for Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Video game designer, and inventor of Tetris, Alexey Leonidovich Pajtnov

Principal and lead of Performing Arts practice for Pfeiffer Partners, William Murray, FAIA

Former Microsoft CIO Jim DuBois

PACE’s goal is to build an important new arts building in the world, and to create a model for design and construction for every subsequent performing arts venue development and construction project going forward.

“Bellevue has changed so much since 2003 and the vision has changed as well,” Cullom said. “It’s no longer reflective — it keeps moving forward…and it needs a place where it can reflect that.”

Cullom and the team are still in the brainstorming phase of what PACE will look like. At a recent meeting in early June, the team spent time considering what PACE should look like, what technology will be involved and how it can best serve the Eastside.

According to the 2019 AMS Planning and Research Corp. marketing assessment conducted to understand what Eastside residents are wanting in a performance center, 51 percent of households will likely attend live theaters, 35 percent will likely attend rock concerts, 36 percent will likely attend paid music concerts and 36 percent will likely visit art museums.

More than anything, PACE will be designed to enhance any performance, whether it’s live music, ballet, theater production, stand-up comedy, and so on. To do so, the space must be flexible to accommodate any performance.

“Audiences are looking for more ways to be a part of the arts,” Cullom said. “We have the challenge of taking 19th century content that’s presented in 20th century buildings that’s shared with 21st century audiences.”

For Cullom, he wants PACE to be the answer to that challenge.

The spaces in which performances and cultural experiences take place must adapt to reflect and embrace the changing desires and expectations of current audiences — creating a forum where 21st century communities will come together.

With that, PACE must be created to be constantly updated as technology rapidly changes.

“It has to be built with upgrading in mind,” Cullom said. “But, we’re not building technology, we’re building housing for [it].”

The long-term vision for PACE is open. PACE’s use will change over time, Cullom said. As the arts change, Cullom said it’s a challenge to anticipate the future of performing arts. However, PACE will be designed to still house those arts, despite changes.

The building plans are slated to be complete by June of 2020, with PACE to be completed by 2021. Learn more about it at

Courtesy photo                                A rendering of what Performing Arts Center Eastside (PACE) may look like.

Courtesy photo A rendering of what Performing Arts Center Eastside (PACE) may look like.