Cathie Anderson

Cathie Anderson: Lender setting the stage for downtown arts center

Published: Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013 - 8:31 am

Conventional lenders weren't willing to bet on Verge Center for the Arts, but Executive Director Liv Moe and her board found one unconventional enough to see that their nonprofit had a solid income stream that could make a $1.5 million loan work.

Moe told me Friday that the Northern California Community Loan Fund, based in San Francisco, provided the funding to allow Verge to acquire its building at 625 S St. in Sacramento.

"One of the things they really liked was our model, that we have these subsidized studios," Moe said. "The artists don't pay a full-market rent for the studios … but there's enough of them that it covers all of our facilities cost on the building. … They were also really impressed that we currently have a waiting list of 112 artists who want studios."

More than a dozen people made contributions that provided the equity for the loan, including former Sacramento Mayor Phil Isenberg and his wife, Marilyn; CBRE's Randy Getz and his wife, Pat Mahoney; Jim and Carlin Naify of Beers Books and their sister-in-law Gloria Naify; Catherine Ann Miller of Miller Consulting; and Trumpette owner Jon Stevenson.

The building costs $900,000, Moe explained, and the remaining $600,000 will be used to add two exhibit spaces totaling 5,000 square feet, perform seismic retrofits, create a 90-seat event venue, and upgrade the building to meet requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

So far, Verge's revenue has come from artists' rent and special events, Moe said, but she plans to start selling memberships to the center. Verge artists will participate in the Capital Artists' Studio Tour later this month, but then the building will close to the public until renovations are complete in March-April 2014.

A mission-critical reunion

You work side by side with someone for 10, 20, 30 or more years, and then you retire. After Charlotte Withycombe left Aerojet and moved to Mexico in the early 1990s, she missed her old comrades-in-arms.

So, once a year, she'd return to the States and get her old pal Whynama Scott to gather up some co-workers for a reunion.

When Withycombe died, Scott kept the tradition alive. There she was on Thursday, trying to catch up with 30 or so retired and current Aerojet employees over lunch at The Old Spaghetti Factory on Folsom Boulevard in Rancho Cordova.

"They treated you well. I worked there for 36 years. I got a good wage," said 90-year-old Mary Compton, who was an executive secretary. "Of course, you had to fight for women's rights. … For instance, if my boss lost his job or his title, my title went, too. I thought that was not right. … I had to fight for my secretaries because I wouldn't let them be stepped on."

Sitting beside her was Mel Bennett, 76, recalling the company's role in many history-making moments: "I got to work on the Apollo program for three years. … I was an engineering technical assistant on the engines that brought them off of the moon and back to Earth. That was the beginning of the computer age."

Powering a revival

Tucked away in planters and cute little cement cubes, Roseville's new town square packs enough juice to host a touring concert or a laser light show.

Recreation manager Kathy Barsotti told me that, on tours of town squares in Redwood City, Sonoma, Chico and other locales, teams of Roseville city staffers heard over and over again that you can never have enough electricity for such a public space.

"We'll get rid of the bathrooms before we get rid of power," Barsotti said.

Yet the city is planning events with care, staying away from big-name acts that might attract crowds to the park but produce little spillover traffic for surrounding businesses, said city development analyst Bill Aiken.

"Basically, you have a huge crowd down here and a bunch of empty restaurants. That's not what we want," Aiken said. "We basically want this space to work in cooperation with our community down here."

As my colleague Ed Fletcher reported in Friday's paper, festivities will inaugurate the square starting at 10 a.m. today and continue until 9:30 p.m.

Call The Bee's Cathie Anderson, (916) 321-1193. Back columns, www.sacbee.com/anderson. Follow her on Twitter @cathiea_sacbee.

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