OC Arts Center Wants to House Co-Op on San Juan's Open Space

Representatives of the nonprofit presented their vision Monday to San Juan Capistrano's Open Space, Trails and Equestrian Commission.

The founders of a newly formed artists cooperative envision building a 10,000-square-foot structure to house studios, galleries and classrooms—a perfect fit, they say, for San Juan Capistrano, which has a “reputation as a cultural hub” in South Orange County.

It wants to build a "minimally invasive structure" on five acres of the city's publicly owned land in the Northwest Open Space, with an outdoor sculpture area, trails and gardens. That swath is part of the open-space properties in San Juan that make up roughly 40 percent of the town's total acreage—43 percent of which is city-owned and protected from development under strict land-use guidelines.

“We think San Juan Capistrano is where this project should be,” Bob Bunyan, development director for the OC Arts Center, told the Open Space, Trails and Equestrian Commission Monday evening.

"Previous council members have encouraged us to look at [existing] buildings, and we are doing that at this time," he said, explaining that not just any old building is appropriate. "Whatever is built on that property is going to feel like a part of that land."

Commissioners told the co-op it has a lot of work ahead of it to convince them and residents that this project belongs on pristine open space. The parcel eyed by the South Orange County-based OC Arts Center is zoned for a community park.

"There’s a lot of work associated with us getting on board before we can say yes to this partnership," said Commissioner Al King. "And you need that commitment [from us] to complete the culmination of your vision."

Bunyan and founder Virginia Repasky presented the art center's project idea before the commission began discussing its priority projects for 2011. Bunyan is also president of the Aliso Viejo Community Foundation and a former executive with Mission Viejo Co.

The commission later scheduled a workshop for 6 p.m. April 20 to gather more public input and prioritize projects, such as completing tail connections from the to the and the construction of a .

The OC Arts Center will need to draw up more detailed plans, such as site maps, graphic renderings, cost estimates and the like before the commission will formally review its proposal, potentially giving a recommendation of approval or denial to the City Council.

Repasky said the co-op would need a commitment from the city before it will launch a fundraising campaign to secure financing. Its donors, she said, are "not willing to commit until we have a home."

Orrie Brown April 05, 2011 at 10:18 PM
I am surprised this group was allowed to make a presentation when they were not listed on the agenda for the meeting. How is a 10,000 square foot structure, restrooms, parking lot, etc. "open space"? We taxpayers cannot afford to pay for this facility or the maintenance and upkeep. And it is NOT open space!
Jenna Chandler April 05, 2011 at 10:30 PM
Hi Orrie, the group was scheduled to present. It's listed under "administrative items" on the agenda.
Aileen Mulcahy May April 06, 2011 at 09:34 PM
One thing I do know, as a visual artist, we need a cultural center, period. How the location is worked out is pretty much up to the city of SJC and the individuals who represent them. This is a non profit group proposing a fine project that will benefit ALL of us. Working together , talking out issues is how great r projects happen. The Committee needs to be congratulated on their willingness to recognize a good idea and express appreciation for the efforts already expanded to reach this worthwhile goal. Aileen Mulcahy May
InterWest April 07, 2011 at 04:51 AM
Hi socalfam and Orrie. I was at the meeting on Monday, for an item other than the Arts Center. I assume you were not, since your facts are wrong. It was on the agenda. The community arts center was presented as being donor supported, not taxpayer supported, yet most of it's programs are provided free for the children of local taxpayers, whose public arts programs have been cut within the school system. The center was presented as a privately-funded non-profit whose mission is to serve the public. The site is also to remain accessible to the public as part of the city's open space plan, including the connections to existing adjacent trails and paths, which have never been completed by the city, but are part of this community project. Also, it wasn't being debated or considered by the commission, it was simply a topic brought to the board for an initial discussion: might San Juan want a privately-funded public community arts center? Everybody can express their opinions, but you should come to the discussion with actual knowledge of the subject.
Melissa Hodge April 07, 2011 at 05:28 AM
Looking forward to hearing more details about this proposal. Hoping it is a good fit for our city and community as it sounds like an opportunity for a cultural center that students, residents and future visitors can enjoy.


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