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Overhaul for Glendale's Alex Theatre

City set to help dilapidated arts house get renovations.

June 11, 2013|By Brittany Levine, brittany.levine@latimes.com
  • Performers Christopher Higgins and William Martinez rehearse their lines backstage at the Alex Theatre where the Music Theatre Guild presents 'Girl Crazy' in Glendale on Monday, June 10, 2013. The Alex Theatre will close for remodeling the backstage area in July which is expected to be completed in November.
Performers Christopher Higgins and William Martinez… (Tim Berger / Staff…)

After months of hold-ups and headaches, city officials approved a roughly $5.3 million construction contract on Tuesday to expand the Alex Theatre, an improvement project officials say will make the historic venue more competitive as it is weaned off an annual government subsidy.

The theater's operator, Glendale Arts, currently gets $415,000 a year to manage the venue, but that subsidy is set to expire in 2015.

PHOTOS: Backstage at the Alex Theatre for 'Girl Crazy'

Before then, it needs three large dressing rooms, a freight elevator, loading dock, more storage space, new electrical systems and a backstage passenger elevator so it can handle larger, more technical productions and move toward self-sustainability, officials have said.

Glendale Arts officials recently unveiled plans for a renovation project that would add about 6,600 square feet of space to the theater to make room for those improvements that are expected to attract a wider-range of clientele.

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The City Council approved the contract in its dual role as the Successor Agency, a body that took over directing redevelopment work after state officials dissolved 400 redevelopment agencies throughout California in February.

The city has invested more than $10 million in redevelopment funds, which come from property taxes boosted by development in once-blighted areas, into the theater since 1992.

But the cash source dried up after lawmakers in Sacramento redirected most of the redevelopment-related property tax dollars to close a multi-billion dollar state budget gap last year.

Former Glendale redevelopment projects, such as the Alex expansion, have been tied up in red-tape ever since. There were times when the expansion was at risk of being canceled due to redevelopment dissolution crises.

Despite the challenges, Glendale officials pushed forward. After negotiating with the state Department of Finance, which now controls former redevelopment money, officials got the go-ahead to keep paying the annual management fee to Glendale Arts and cover the expansion.

The council awarded George C. Hopkins Construction Co. the contract to expand the theater after the company lowered the project's costs by $100,000.

The company, which has worked on several city projects, including the Adult Recreation Center, was the only firm to submit a bid on time.

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