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.
"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."