Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Council to be Bowled over with stage plans

$3 million project goes before Ojai City Council

By Nao Braverman

Despite nationwide economic woes, Ojai residents are scrambling to raise enough money to renovate Ojai’s historic main stage.
The $3 million Libbey Bowl renovation project was scheduled for discussion at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting.
A conceptual design process is moving along according to schedule so far, said local architect and former Mayor David Bury, who is working on drafting a design for the much-needed make-over.
In March, the Ojai City Council approved to allocate $100,000 toward reviving the dilapidating structure, with $30,000 to pay for immediate repairs and $70,000 to get designs for the overall remodel in motion.
Short-term repairs are complete and have stayed within the $30,000 budget, said Public Works director Mike Culver.
To keep the stage afloat for another couple of years, Public Works made some minor roof repairs, fumigated the facility to get rid of termites, replaced unstable beams, built a roof on the adjacent Green Room, repaired the dressing room floor, improved the drainage system and repaved the seating area, said Culver.
Bury recently met with city staff to discuss a initial conceptual design which will be presented to the Planning Commission, the Parks and Recreation Commission and Historic Preservation Commission in late December or January, he said.
Renovation of the historic bowl, built in 1957 within a park, is a rare project that will require input from three of Ojai’s commissions, and is expected to be presented to the City Council shortly after.
On Nov. 6, the Ojai Music Festival presented the initial conceptual design to all of Libbey Bowl’s users, who liked it, said Jeff Haydon, the festival’s executive director.
The Ojai Music Festival has already raised close to $1 million for the project.
“We are very hopeful, especially since people have been so generous already given these harsh economic times,” said Haydon. He added that almost all of the donations so far have come from within Ojai.
Ojai Music Festival representatives recently met with city staff to draft a memorandum of understanding detailing the roles and responsibilities of the two parties as fundraising efforts continue. City staff has agreed to work with the Music Festival to procure separate cost estimate and construction management services. They have decided that the money raised will have to meet a certain benchmark before construction begins, although an exact amount for the benchmark was still undecided at the Music Festival’s meeting with city staff, said Haydon.
Culver said that he is still not sure whether the project will require an environmental impact report because of the 51-year-old stage’s historic significance. If needed, an environmental report could delay the process, he said.
However, if all goes as scheduled, construction could begin as soon as July 2009 and be completed in May 2010.
Construction plans are expected to work around the 2009 Ojai Music Festival, which is still slated to take place at Libbey Bowl. Hopefully, the project will be completed in time for a grand re-opening at the music festival in 2010, said Haydon.
City staff is still accepting applications for the events at the bowl although any events after July 4, 2009 will be tentative until the construction schedule is in place, said Culver.

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