BEAVERTON, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — Gathering hundreds of people shoulder-to-shoulder in an auditorium — many of them seniors, many with coughs and sniffles — is a no-no in 2020.
The live theater and music worlds are on their knees due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the folks building the Patricia Reser Center for the Arts in downtown Beaverton are betting that by early 2022 they can fill their 550 person theatre without a worry.
The construction site at Southwest Crescent Street and Southwest Hall Boulevard is wedged between a new parking garage, a new Hyatt House hotel, and The Round condos (so close that you can see what residents are watching on TV). The Patricia Reser Center for the Arts is part of a project to give this part of Beaverton a center gravity so that locals won’t have to go to Portland so often for entertainment, and visitors are not just lost in the strip malls or racing to the Nike ramp. An arts center, with a mid-sized theater for bands and plays, plus an art gallery and flexible rental space, is just what the voters wanted, according to Cheryl Twete, the city of Beaverton’s community development director.
“We’ve got it going on here in Beaverton. We’ve been working so hard for so long to create this active, vibrant downtown area that our community desires,” said Twete last Monday as the last workers signed off for the day. “The PRCA and the rest of the development here at Beaverton Central really is helping us get that foothold in the downtown area.”
As well as performing arts, Twete credits food as the other force reshaping Beaverton — and not just the new restaurants (she says more have opened than closed during COVID). The city’s storefront matching grants subsidize the restaurants, but the money is donated by Reser Foods (Patricia Reser) and Gene Biggi of Beaverton Foods. “That’s a lot of food powering all this development,” Twete said.
The designer is Opsis Architecture, known for its educational buildings and auditoria, such as Reed College’s Performing Arts Building, the Oregon Zoo’s Education Center, and the Bend Pavilion/hockey rink. Skanska is the builder. Skanska project manager Michael Kingham said the work has so far been pretty straightforward. There’s a high water table issue because of the climate and the nearby Beaverton Creek, but that was dealt with by dewatering. Skanska also lost a few days of roofing in mid-November due to heavy rains, so workers were on overtime during a recent tour, working until the sun went down at 5 pm.
Kingham said they also lost some days to depleted workforce numbers, as construction workers often have to quarantine if they are exposed to someone who tests positive for COVID-19.
The original handover target of summer 2021 has been pushed back about two months.
The structure is mostly steel and concrete and supports large, floor-to-ceiling windows on the first and second-floor levels.
“We went out to the community, years ago, and asked, ‘What do you want in an art center?’. One of the things that came back was, ‘Make it be open and inviting to the community, not a fortress of art like back in the old days,'” Chris Ayzoukian, executive director of the PRCA, told the Business Tribune. Ayzoukian used to be vice president of the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, so he knows how to give an arts center an inviting glow, even in an American downtown that empties out at night. (Tacoma Arts Live and the Kirkland Performance Center in Washington are similar to the PRCA in scale.)
“Our architects (at Opsis) really took that to heart. You’re looking at a multipurpose space.”
One entrance will have public art and benches that overlook the creek, a usually forgotten stream that teems with waterfowl. The pavilion is a glass box that functions as a lobby, and the theater’s blank concrete walls will be lined with Douglas Fir panels. Wooden slats on the ceiling are designed to create lighting effects and subliminally recall the beaver dams that inspired the Beaver-town’s name.
The new garage next door is an urban renewal project, while the arts center itself is a city project. The project costs $48.2 million, broken down thus: public resources, $24 million; lead donor, $13 million; private fundraising, $11.2 million.
Adjacent to it is the Rise Central, a 230 apartment building, and the Hyatt House Hotel, which will open in January 2021.
Twete says this is the “next wave of development energy here at the Round, and we have more projects planned. We’re acquiring property and are currently working with Urban Development Partners, the company out of Portland, on an exciting office, arts and innovation project across the street from City Hall on the south side of Millikan Way.”
For Kingham of Skanska, the current order of business is enclosure. That is, “Getting the building closed so we can start pumping heat in and work on the interior finishes and the wood curtain wall.” The exterior will be fiber cement panels and metal panels, and some Prodema, which is a synthetic wood product.
Walking around the concrete shell, Ayzoukian is also excited by the construction. He points to the steel studs where the green room and dressing rooms will be, as well as the other elements that make it a full-service theater. It has a fly tower for lifting scenery, and a moveable orchestra shell for projecting a band’s sound. The farthest seat from center stage is only 65 feet away so that it will feel intimate but with high-quality acoustics.
“We’re aiming for a middle of the road acoustic, a little wetter, not dry,” said Ayzoukian. “A little bit more reverberant than your typical multipurpose halls.”
A new home for the arts
The Patricia Reser Center for the Arts will be the first performing arts center of its kind to be built in the Portland-metro area in more than 30 years (if you discount Gerding Edlen’s The Armory, which was a rehab of an old armory.)
The facility will include a 550-seat theater, art gallery, rehearsal, workshop and meeting space, lobby, outdoor plaza and adjacent parking structure. With innovative offerings in the performing arts (theater, music, dance, film and lectures), the Patricia Reser Center for the Arts will be a beacon for civic engagement, creative learning, and greater social cohesion.
Groundbreaking took place on Nov. 13, 2019, and construction completion is expected for the fall of 2021. The opening presenting season is anticipated in early 2022, COVID-willing, although Ayzoukian says there will be more openings in 2022.
“We want to make sure to open once, and not have to shut down again (because of COVID-19).” He expects it to take four to five years to have the center fully programmed. The mixed-use facilities will be able to host anything from business conferences to international rock bands, school recitals to up to 70-piece symphonies.
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