CSUN’s dream of housing one of the San Fernando Valley’s first major venues for music and theatre was put on hold as a result of the state’s approximately $42 billion budget deficit.
Construction on the $125 million Valley Performing Arts Center, along with a new science building, was put on at least a 90-day hiatus after the university received a memo from the state’s Department of Finance in mid-December of last year.
The memo, which addressed several agencies including both the Cal State University and University of California systems, stated that there would be a temporary freeze on disbursements issued on state-funded projects.
The memo, issued Dec. 18, 2008, said in order to balance the state’s budget and maintain funds for ‘day-to-day operational needs,’ state-funded loans to CSU and UC systems, the California Community Colleges, California Institute for Regenerative Medicine and others would be frozen until January.’
‘The inability to issue debt is directly attributable to the State’s worsening fiscal condition,’ stated California Director of Investments Daniel S. Dowell on the State Treasurer’s website.’ ‘Current projections by the State Controller show the State will run out of cash to pay its bills in February, while the Department of Finance projects a budget shortfall of $40 billion’ in the 2009-2010 fiscal year.
Gailya Brown, director of the PAC’s Imagine the Arts campaign, said the university’s ‘hope is that this suspension will last no more than 90 days.’ It all depends on what happens in Sacramento.’
Associate Vice President for Facilities Development and Operation, Colin Donahue, said construction on the PAC is 25 percent complete.’ As of the end of the year, ‘there was approximately $25 million of completed work,’ he said.
C.W. Driver, the general contractor hired to work on the PAC, was notified of the construction suspension by the university on Dec. 29, 2008, said Donahue.’ The crew then completed the necessary safety precautions, such as securing the steel frame and welding and protection from environmental elements, in order to ensure the site was secure during the suspension.
Donahue also said several other ‘minor capital projects’ were affected by the halt in construction, including ‘handicapped accessibility upgrades and minor upgrades (to buildings), anything that was funded through state bonds.’
‘A lot of it might not be immediately visible to students,’ Donahue said.’ ‘We have a very large campus, if you count in just our academic buildings (which are) 4 million square feet, so we continually upgrade (and) improve them.’
He stressed the importance of those funds because they go directly into maintaining the campus.
The Valley PAC is being constructed on Nordhoff Street and Lindley Avenue east of Nordhoff and Cypress Halls, which house the theatre and music departments, and is projected to be completed April 2010, with the public unveiling to take place in October of that year.
The science building, which will be named Chaparral Hall, is about 80 percent complete with $34 million used so far in construction as of Dec. 31 of last year, said Donahue.’
The project’s total cost is an estimated $45 million, he said.
Projects that were not affected include the G3 parking structure on Zelzah Avenue, new student housing and the Recreation Center, he said.’ Those projects are being funded by the CSU, not from state bonds, Donahue said.
The ability to quickly restart building and the university’s ability to pay construction company C.W. Driver remain Donahue’s concerns.
‘We have a really dedicated team,’ said Donahue. ‘Retaining the key personnel in both the contractors and the subcontractors’hellip;has some impact on (our) ability to start up.’
The PAC is being funded by $75 million in state bonds and $50 million in private donations.’ So far, $22 million in private funds have been received, and an additional $28 million needs to be raised, said Brown.
‘The ($22 million) has been put in a short-term account and has gained a little bit of value, it has not been affected by the fluctuations in the stock market,’ she said.’ Brown also said the university has reassured the donors to the PAC that their money has not been affected negatively by the economy.
‘What this issue really does is it drives home the reality (of how) the private component of that partnership (to fund the PAC) is so critical,’ said Brown.’ ‘We’ve had some very supportive calls from our donors’hellip;Most people see this for what it is; it’s a state-wide issue.’
Due to the state’s budget deficit, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Legislature cut $97.3 million from the CSU budget, the Sundial reported last December.’ An estimated 10,000 students will be denied enrollment, with roughly 1,100 first-time freshmen to be turned away from CSUN in fall 2009, reported the Sundial.
Tony Bell, spokesperson for L.A. County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, said ‘because of the state’s inability to get its financial house in order, the (Performing Arts Center) will be delayed, and it is indicative of the need for structural reform at the state level.’
Antonovich, who supervises the fifth district which includes the San Fernando Valley, donated $500,000 to the PAC.
Bell said the supervisor ‘feels the Performing Arts Center will be a very positive asset to the Valley and to our county’hellip;It will provide our residents with a superb venue for the arts that will have a very positive impact on the surrounding community.’
Brown said the PAC is expected to ‘be a revenue-generated facility,’ but that it was too early to predict exactly how much money the center would bring to CSUN.
‘Hopefully, the Legislature resolves this issue and re-establishes funding,’ said Brown.