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University City approves $28M expansion, renovation of COCA arts center

University City approves $28M expansion, renovation of COCA arts center

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UNIVERSITY CITY • Officials here approved a $28 million expansion and renovation to the city’s historic Center of Creative Arts on Monday.

The project will renovate the center’s main building at 524 Trinity Avenue and add an east wing that will include a state-of-the-art 450-seat theater, more than 8,000 square feet of new studio space, a commons area, and a designated area for families to drop off and pick up students, according to a COCA press release.

Renovations to the main building, already underway, will include two new dance studios, renovated art and design studio and a teaching kitchen. COCA’s current theater will be converted into a sky-lit performance lab.

The campus will remain open during construction, which is expected to be completed by early 2020, but some performances will be moved off-site. The expansion is expected to break ground this summer.

The project will also replace COCA’s parking lot with a secured, covered parking lot the center will share with a Washington University music school building.

The expansion is the second phase of a construction project funded by more than $36 million raised in private donations since 2015, according the community arts organization. The fundraising campaign aims to raise $40 million for the construction project and for $12 million toward endowment and reserves. The east wing and its theater will be named after two families who each donated $5 million to the campaign.

“This expansion will allow COCA to serve more students from throughout the St. Louis community and ensure that we remain a part of what makes St. Louis a great place to work, live, and raise a family, for years to come,” Jesse Hunter, COCA president, said in the press release.

COCA was founded in 1986. Its main building, designed by architect Erich Mendelsohn, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The organization, the fourth-largest multidisciplinary community arts center in the U.S., serves more than 50,000 students of all ages from more than 200 ZIP codes each year, according to COCA. The organization has a $5 million annual budget, employs more than 250 teaching artists and provides nearly $1 million annually in scholarships and support services to its students.

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