Seattle Opera to show plans for new facility in Mercer Arena space

The Seattle Opera will present plans to the Seattle Design Review Commission on Thursday for the Mercer Arena space, which the company has been leasing from the city.
If plans are approved, the company hopes to break ground on the project in January 2017.
In 2008, the city and Seattle Opera entered into an agreement, to have the opera company pay $110,000 a year to hold the building and begin paying rent at $220,000 a year, with step increases, beginning in 2010.
Seattle Opera had planned to raise money for the renovations, and then-Mayor Greg Nickels said the city would not need to spend any money on it.
Then the recession hit, and Seattle Opera asked for an extension on the ‘hold’ in 2010.
They were allowed to continue holding the space at a reduced rate of $55,000 a year.
Following the terms of the extension, Seattle Opera began paying full rent in 2014, which marked the beginning of a 40-year lease, according to a Seattle Opera spokesperson.
The opera company currently uses a converted warehouse space in South Lake Union to rehearse and do administrative work, while sets are stored outside the city.
“I feel so sorry for some of them because they have a little space to work in,” said Christine Szabadi, the president of the Seattle Opera Guild.
The new project would put all operations under one roof, including community events and workshops for children.
The new building would cost $60 million. Seattle Opera said this will be a public-private partnership, so a lot of the money will be raised through a fundraising campaign. The company has also received some grants.
King County is giving $3 million, after it was announced last year that hotel taxes had sufficiently paid off King Dome debts earlier than anticipated. That freed up money for the arts.
The state also gave about $400,000 for Seattle Opera to conduct a sustainability study, to see how they could build to LEED standards.
In October of 2015, the Seattle City Council approved a resolution to give $5 million to the project. So far, less than $400,000 of that money has been appropriated.
Szabadi told KIRO 7 she feels the public will benefit from these tax dollars.
“More people will visit to come to our city, too, because they want to go to our opera or our symphony,” Szabadi said. “It’s going to be more of a destination for out-of-towners, as well as a wonderful cultural place for people who live here. “
She said the glass design of the building may also be more inviting for people, so the public can peek in at what the company is doing.
“A lot of people are intimidated by the opera because they don’t know anything about it. And I think something like this will help people to overcome that,” she said.
This project also feeds into the city’s Uptown Urban Design Framework.
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