Historic Theaters Play a Vital Role in Revitalization Efforts


The restored historic Art Deco Orinda Theater in Orinda, CaliforniaPeople are now returning to historic urban areas in great numbers. These areas are known for the quality of the buildings, their neighborhoods with character and sense of place, as well as convenient public areas with mature landscaping. They are also frequently known for their historic theaters. These have become important resources and catalysts for revitalizing these areas. Theaters are unique magnets drawing people to historic downtowns and are often among the first buildings to be renovated because of broad value that they add to revitalization projects. They are powerful activity and economic generators that spin off opportunities for other commercial ventures, such as restaurants and retail shops, allowing them to take hold and grow. Historic theaters can play a critical part in revitalization activities in a number of ways depending on where the community is in its efforts. They can provide a boost to an existing commercial area that has stagnated, such as the Alameda Theater renovation did; enhance existing arts programs as the Sunset Center for the Arts renovation did in Carmel California; by restoring and refurbishing a rundown facility that was loosing bookings to other facilities as the Hollywood Palladium Theater renovation did; or as a major catalyst jump starting revitalization in a sluggish downtown, such as the Napa Valley Opera Hall renovation did in Napa, California.

Alameda Theater, Alameda, CA

The restored façade of Alameda Theater with restaurant.The 2,250 seat Art Deco Alameda Theater opened in 1932, had one of the largest screens in the Bay Area, and was the major attraction of the Park Avenue shopping area in Alameda. In1975, it was divided into three theaters and eventually closed in 1979. After that it was used as a dance hall, a roller rink and a gymnastics studio. The theater was nearly demolished for a parking lot during this time. The City realized that when restored it could again become a draw for the downtown. Restoration work began in 2005 and the theater reopened in 2008 as a single auditorium with a new six theater wing constructed to the rear of the historic theater along with a large parking garage. Today the facility shows first run movies. Facing the street to the side of the large marquee is a successful restaurant. The facility is a half a block away from Park Street, the main commercial street in the area and it has contributed to the revitalization of this area.
Bruce Judd was involved in the Alameda Theater over many years.

Hollywood Palladium, Hollywood, CA

Hollywood Palladium Theater after restoration with new neon signs.The Palladium opened in 1940, to great fanfare with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra and Frank Sinatra headlining the event. Located in Hollywood on Sunset Boulevard, the Streamline Moderne and Art Deco auditorium had an 11,000 square foot dance floor that could hold over 4,000 people. As big bands began losing their popularity in the 1950s, the venue was used for political and charity events. During this time the exterior and interior were substantially altered and eventually the Palladium was reduced to hosting small auto shows and minor rock concerts.
After a year of restoration, the Palladium was returned to its 1940 appearance with a restored interior, renovated ticket booths, and entrances, seismic bracing, and a restored front façade with decorative spandrel glass and a tall animated neon blade sign. Three storefronts to each side of the front façade were renovated providing retail space. The Palladium reopened with a concert by Jay-Z and today serves as a first class venue hosting many popular concerts.
What was a dilapidated section of Sunset Boulevard a few years ago is now a vibrant active area with restaurants, cafes and other outdoor activities.
Bruce Judd oversaw the exterior restoration of the theater.

Napa Valley Opera House, Napa, CA

Restored front façade of Napa Valley Opera House with the main auditorium on the second floor and a café on ground floor.The Napa Valley Opera House is one of only two remaining second-story theaters in California. It was built in 1879, and designed by the Newsom Brothers, California’s best known Victorian architects. The Napa Valley Opera House had been vacant for nearly fifty years when a community effort began to save and renovate the building. A nonprofit organization was established and work proceeded slowly as fund raising efforts raised just enough money for the next phase of work. Ultimately the project took over $14 million and 30 years to complete. Work included rebuilding a new stage house to accommodate modern set requirements, seismic bracing, code upgrades and restoration of the lobby, auditorium and balcony, and a new stage with state-of-the-art lighting and sound equipment.
Bruce Judd began working on feasibility studies for Opera House in the 1970s when right out of school and continued the effort to save and restore the facility for many years.

The Sunset Cultural Center, Carmel, CA

New Sunset Cultural Center Lobby with historic entry to the rear.In 1925, the Sunset School was built to educate students in the Carmel Valley. In 1964, it was purchased by the City and converted to the Sunset Cultural Center. In 1993, a unique public-private partnership was established to transform the facility into a state-of-the-art performing arts center. Renovation of the theater included major acoustic changes so that the 700 seat theater would sound as good as it looked. Some classrooms were converted to rehearsal spaces and green rooms while others were converted to art galleries. Since the high school auditorium had only a very small lobby, new lobby was constructed on the exterior to fit in with the historic character of the building.
Bruce Judd served as the Principal architect for the project.

Bruce D. Judd, FAIA

The Importance of Architectural Surveys


City Planning Survey MapFor the first time in modern history, people are now moving back into urban areas in great numbers.  Much of this activity is now occurring in historic neighborhoods and downtown areas.  These areas are known for the quality of the buildings, walkable neighborhoods with a sense of place, and public areas with mature landscaping. Originally designed to be close to transportation and needed services, these areas have retained these attributes.

As planners, developers and architects begin to look at urban regions with renewed interest, they must first carry out an architectural survey of the existing resources in order to understand the existing buildings and infrastructure. Surveys typically include looking at all the buildings in an area and determining with ones might be historic or architecturally significant, and how they might be tied together geographically.  Completed surveys help planners, architects and developers understand where historic buildings are located, which buildings will require sensitivity when renovating, and how to best promote revitalization.  Historically significant buildings with potential for stimulating development may also be identified.  Surveys can also form the basis for changes to planning codes to encourage revitalization in these areas.

Palm Springs, California

Ball-Arnaz Residence, Palm Springs, CA, 1954 Modernist resident surveyed.Palm Springs is known for its extensive number of Modernist resources of every type, including residential, civic, and commercial. A citywide Historic Resources Survey was carried out in conjunction with the City’s Planning Department to catalog these resources, determine if there were potential historic districts and then to hold public workshops and educational sessions to inform citizens of the results. 200 properties were surveyed and identified as potential historic resources and more detailed records were prepared for fifty properties. The survey information was used to establish new historic districts and to promote the historic resources in Palm Springs. A series of public workshops and education sessions were used to further inform the public about the resources and their importance to Palm Springs. Bruce Judd oversaw and contributed to all aspects the project. Since the survey has been completed Palm Springs has become widely known for the number of modernist historic buildings. This in turn has lead to walking tours, motel packages featuring modernist buildings and a thriving real estate market.

Monterey, California

Monterey Custom House surveyed as part of project.The downtown area of Monterey, California is one of the most historic communities in California. The Old Town Historic District was designated a National Historic Landmark District (NHLD) in 1970, and includes some of the state’s most important buildings, many constructed of adobe. The buildings range from California’s Mexican and Early American period to 1940s and 1950s structures.

A new survey was completed of the larger downtown area that incorporates the NHLD. This survey resulted in expanding the district boundaries, including new contributors to the district, and refining the district’s period of significance.
In addition, other properties were identified outside the NHLD that were eligible for local landmark designation.
This new survey increased the public’s awareness of the variety of historic resources with in the city beyond the well known early settlement period. The new buildings included more recent vernacular cottages, Craftsman bungalows and mid-century modern buildings. Bruce Judd oversaw and directed the survey efforts for the City.
Monterey also developed financial assistance packages for homeowners including an active Mills Act Program. This program is a state law allowing cities to enter into contracts with owners of historic structures. The contract reduces property taxes in exchange for a commitment to preserve the property. Typically a Mills Act contract is for 10 years and the building owner agrees to use the tax savings to renovate and maintain the property.

City of Fresno: Chinatown

1882 View of Fresno, Chinatown area surveyed.The Chinatown area of Fresno was established in 1872, before there was a City of Fresno, which was founded in 1885. The area grew into a flourishing community that was known for its many long narrow structures, densely packed and facing onto small streets. By the 1880s, Fresno’s Chinatown was home to a flourishing Chinese community.  Over the years, underground tunnels and gambling dens were established.  As the city expanded, Chinatown withered and many of the buildings were torn down. Today the City is working to preserve what remains of the historic area while encouraging development to revitalize the area.  Prior to preparing plans for the neighborhood, an historic resources survey was conducted and an historic context statement was written describing the history and importance of the remaining resources. With the existing buildings surveyed, it was possible to create rehabilitation plans including financing, promotional materials and code assistance to stimulate revitalization. Bruce Judd oversaw the project and continues to work in Fresno.

Anaheim, California

Anaheim Downtown, 1922, surveyed as part of project.The City of Anaheim has worked since 1988, to survey their historic resources.  The City continues using the surveys to prepare a downtown redevelopment plan. The City used this plan as a framework to underground utilities, build parking structures, create public area improvements including sidewalk and planting improvements, assemble parcels for development, and provide financial assistance for renovation of historic structures in the area.  Financial assistance includes an active Mills Act Program (the third largest in California).

Anaheim also created a Citywide Preservation Plan including guidelines for renovation and criteria for designating buildings and districts.  The plan that was adopted by the City Council in 2010.

The first historic district established, the Anaheim Colony Historic District, surrounds the commercial core and was given additional special treatment to ensure that the historic buildings there would remain in place and be renovated.  Today the City has on-going preservation training for City staff and the public to ensure that renovation work will continue into the future. Bruce Judd worked with Anaheim beginning in 1988 for over twenty years on many projects including surveys and the preservation plan.

Bruce D. Judd, FAIA

Using 3D Tools to Visualize an Architectural Design – Part One


Click on an image to enlarge.

This is the first of several posts describing how to use 3D tools, such as SketchUp Pro, to show clients and design review boards alternative designs for a proposed project. This is particularly useful when a client has difficulty visualizing how two dimensional drawings will result in a finished three dimensional project.

Later posts will show how design alternatives were created and presented to the client and how interior design and finishes may be incorporated into presentations.

The project described in this post calls for an addition to an existing house in Watercolor, FL with a new two-story carriage house to the rear of the main house.  The carriage house has a two car garage with a studio apartment above. The images are paired to first show a view of the final design in SketchUp contrasted with a photograph of the completed project.

The overall design intent was to make the family room addition and the two story carriage house appear to be part of the initial design and not as add-ons.  Below is an example using SketchUp Pro to help a client understand a proposed design as well as alternatives.  Because the designs can be viewed from any vantage point, the exterior and interior may be viewed with close to real-life perspective.

The first pair of images  above, shows an exterior view of the design with the main two story house to the left rear and the new carriage house in front to the right.  The site faces a street to the rear of this image and an alley runs along the visible facades turning off to the right of the images.  Because the site is fairly small, it was necessary to find ways to develop as large a floor area as possible.   The facades facing to the left are stepped back from each other in response to the very tight side yard setback requirements yet still permit a two car garage.  The stepped facades are facing west.

As built, there were very few changes from the final design and none of them are visible in this view.  The design was developed to maintain the front facade with open porch that extends across the entire front of the house.  This view of the design is looking down the alley towards the new carriage house.  The existing front porch and existing two story portion of the house are on the left.  The new one story family room addition is in the middle.

This is a detailed view of the new deck design.  The new family room addition is to the rear and an existing one story master bedroom to the right.  The room was stepped in from the two story portion of the house with a sloping roof that was similar in pitch to the front porch roof. The design shows the close approximation of the the SketchUp drawing and the final constructed design.

The new deck receives afternoon and early evening sunlight.  Breaking up the facades reduces the scale of the building elements as does the existing and new landscaping.

Watercolor has very strict controls on materials, colors and the overall design. All landscaping must be sustainable native materials.  No sod is used, pine straw is used instead to retain soil moisture, reducing watering requirements.

Part of the design challenge was to provide for new outside space and a private exterior stair to the carriage house.  The image on the right shows the final revised design with the stair rising from the right to the left.  The second floor door is now at the edge of the wall giving a longer wall space for the living area.

Here is the end view of the new carriage house, with the carriage house bathroom above a small storage area off of the garage.

Here you see another view of the completed project showing the eastern side of the carriage house with a central door leading into the garage.

In my next post I will will show how 3D rendering may be used to quickly show the affect of alternative designs in the design process.

A Brief Introduction to Seaside

Authentic New Town

Seaside, located on the panhandle of Florida’s Emerald Coast, is frequently referred to as the first authentic new town to be built in the United States in fifty years and, as the first ”New Urbanism” development in the country.  It was conceived in 1981 by Robert and Daryl Davis.  They selected Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, (co-founders of the Congress for the New Urbanism), of Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company (DPZ, to design Seaside from scratch as a small town that embodied the principles of the new urbanism movement.  The ideas promote walkable and human-scaled neighborhoods and towns.  Using models from Savannah, Charleston, S.C. and vernacular Florida cottages, they developed simple rules for how the town should develop, focusing on narrow streets, native plant materials, open porches, wood siding, pitched roofs, and no large picture windows.  This allowed individual owners to create their own vision of Seaside with considerable flexibility and variety while still being part of a unified larger community.

Growing, Evolving

Seaside is a continually evolving town of year-round residents and summer vacationers with a central town square with grass amphitheater and a variety of restaurants, shops, offices, condos and residences, all in a compact 80 acres.

Seaside includes buildings by notable architects such as Steven Badanes, Deborah Berke, Walter Chatham, David Coleman, Michael McDonough, Alex Gorlin, Steven Holl, Leon Krier, Machado and Silvetti, Sam Mockbee, David Mohney, Robert Orr, Aldo Rossi, Daniel Solomon, Robert A.M. Stern, and Melanie Taylor.

Seaside has been featured in over 800 articles and books and was described by Time Magazine in 1989 as one of the 10 “Best of the Decade” achievements in the field of design.
This year, Frommer Travel recognized the Florida Panhandle beaches, including Seaside,  as a “top 10 destination” for 2010 and it is the only continental U.S. destination included in the list. Travel & Leisure magazine named Seaside in its 100 Greatest Trips issue in 2009 and one of their Five Favorite Summer towns in 2005

Christmas At Seaside

A Small Town Wonderland

Christmas in the small towns along the the Florida panhandle is a very special time of year. This is particularly true in the area centered on Seaside where everyone seems to know each other and ride bikes or walk to restaurants, shops, and the many seasonal events: the annual Christmas parade, Christmas tree lighting ceremony, winter festivals and of course the arrival of Santa in a carriage. Seaside, located on the panhandle of Florida’s Emerald Coast, is frequently referred to as the first authentic new town to be built in the United States in fifty years and, as the first ”New Urbanism” development in the country.  And Christmas is a time when the many benefits of the urban design come to life.  The events along State Route 30-A, the main road in this part of the panhandle can be easily reached by walking or riding a bike.  In addition, the weather is balmy and Christmas lights glisten in the night sky. Enjoy!

Santa Arriving at the Winter Festival parade and smores for the kids.

The parade.

The Winter Festival.

Perspicacity and the Airstream food delivery systems at night.

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