Tentative pact in place for Sacramento arts complex

Supporters of the new arts center at the Fremont Adilt School gather outside the building on Thursday.
Supporters of the new arts center at the Fremont Adilt School gather outside the building on Thursday. efletcher@sacbee.com

Calling it the “next big thing” in Sacramento’s renaissance, a who’s who of local arts glitterati toured the long-shuttered Fremont Adult School in midtown Thursday.

If everything goes right, in seven months the site will be wall to wall with ballerinas as the new home of the Sacramento Ballet and a collection of local arts groups.

“It will be a game-changer for us,” said Ron Cunningham, artistic director of the Sacramento Ballet.

Attorney Richard Rich, who will chair the board set to run the city-owned site, said it will also change things for each of the arts nonprofits that will move in. By allowing them to pay a share of the operating cost rather than market-rate rents, the nonprofits will be allowed to thrive, he said.

More than a dozen people toured the building Thursday.

“This is the before picture,” Rich said as he escorted them through the brick-walled, U-shaped school that dates back to the 1920s.

The plan still faces a decision by the City Council, but backers believe they have the votes to make the plan a reality.

Under the tentative agreement, the city of Sacramento would pay the Sacramento City Unified School District $1 for a 40-year lease of the former Fremont Adult School at 2420 N Street. The city would then sub-lease the building to a new nonprofit operating company formed to run the site, to be called the E. Claire Raley Studios for the Performing Arts.

The operating company would contribute $1.5 million of the $6.5 million renovation cost. The city’s $5 million contribution would come equally from a CalEPA fund and from the Economic Development Fund, said Linda Tucker, a city spokeswoman.

“It’s a seminal accomplishment for the arts community,” said Jeff Dorso, a Sacramento attorney who serves on the ballet board and will serve on the new board that will manage the site.

The council is expected to take up the item March 17. Construction would begin within weeks of the council’s vote and the site could open in seven months, Dorso said.

The nonprofit Raley studios will aid area arts groups by reducing the strain they face in paying market-rate rents, Dorso said. He said the project became more sustainable when the board dropped plans for a new $25 million building in favor of the $6.5 million renovation.

In addition to the ballet, the 47,000-square-foot center would house a variety of art tenants such as the Brazilian Center, Sacramento Children’s Chorus, Capital Stage, and Alliance Francaise.

Cunningham said the new site would allow the ballet to accommodate more students. It currently has 350 at its K Street site.

“Kids are clamoring for classes; we don’t have space for them,” Cunningham said.

Call The Bee’s Ed Fletcher, (916) 321-1269. Follow him on Twitter @NewsFletch.

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