Kennedy Center to undergo renovations

The city is slated to approve plans in early May for a multimillion renovation of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

The “Plaza Project,” which has already been approved by the D.C. Commission of Fine Arts, calls for the addition of two new buildings to the center, an alteration of its current landscape and a reconstruction of the surrounding area, which sits on the bank of the Potomac River.

“We see nothing but good things there and that’s rare because it’s such a big project,” said Charles Atherton, secretary of the Commission of Fine Arts, which examines how new buildings will aesthetically impact the District.

“(I) think the (project) holds great promise because it connects the center to the city,” he added.

Atherton said he was pleased with the design, which has been submitted to the city for final approval, and believed that it would not disrupt the surrounding Foggy Bottom neighborhood and roadways.

“It seems to be pretty well worked out and the designers have very carefully examined the effects of the construction on local traffic,” he said.

The new landscaping plans, which were designed by New York-based architect Rafael Vinoly, include a connection to the waterfront and a plaza over the Potomac Freeway that leads visitors to the performance halls.

In addition, the center will construct a rehearsal hall and theatrical education complex, which will feature a number of exhibits that are free to the public. If the National Capital Planning Commission approves the project, the renovations will be completed within a decade.

The center, located at 27th and F streets, has nearly completed a smaller renovation of its parking garage and entranceways.

Dana Burgess, a GW assistant professor of dance, said the newly renovated Kennedy Center will “enliven all of Foggy Bottom and make the performing arts and education an even more accessible and a usable component for GW students.”

Burgess said the complex’s expansion would make Foggy Bottom an even more attractive place to learn.

“Currently, our dance students are required to attend performances at the center and my students partake in internships and special guest lectures at the center,” Burgess said. “We want our GW dance students to take advantage of all the unique opportunities that Washington D.C. has to offer.”

Kennedy Center President Michael Kaiser lauded the educational opportunities provided by the new initiative.

“The Plaza Project expands upon the original vision for the center – creating an arts campus that will allow the visitor to learn about the history of the performing arts in America, experience the backstage rush of a rehearsal in one of the new rehearsal spaces and then actually enjoying a performance,” he said.

While the Department of Transportation will spend $400 million to construct the Plaza, the Kennedy Center will privately raise the $250 million needed to complete the rehearsal hall and theater complex, Kaiser said.

“This will be no small undertaking on the part of the center,” he said. “However, there is great enthusiasm for this project and I am confident the private funds required can be raised.”

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