Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts Debuts in Beverly Hills

Public tours renovated Beverly Hills Post Office now converted into part of Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts campus following dedication ceremony.

The dedication ceremony of the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills on Oct. 15, 2013.Credit: Matthew Sanderson
The dedication ceremony of the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills on Oct. 15, 2013.Credit: Matthew Sanderson
After two decades, the dream to create a performing arts center in Beverly Hills became a reality Tuesday, Oct. 15 with dignitaries and city officials dedicating the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts.

The 2.5-acre cultural center at Santa Monica Boulevard and North Crescent Drive features the 500-seat Goldsmith Theater adjacent to the rehabbed Beverly Hills Post Office from 1933, which is now called the Paula Kent Meehan Historic Building. The old post office is converted to 150-black box theater, as well as offices and stores.

Two opening night galas are planned Thursday and Friday for the center.

The first show of the center's inaugural season is Nov. 8 and Nov. 9 with the Martha Graham Dance Company. Click here for more details on the 2013-14 season.

"I've never felt such community, pride and anticipation in our community and worldwide," said Vice Mayor Lili Bosse, capturing the moment for the city. "We're preserving our history while leading our way to the future."

The center's board of directors credited Founding Director Bram Goldsmith for lending his talents in starting the planning, as well as to former Mayor Vicki Reynolds and Sen. Dianne Feinstein in the process to strike a deal in purchasing the post office property from the United States Postal Service.

"They put up some untenable offers," said Reynolds, vice chairman of development on the board, speaking of the USPS. "Years passed and there was still no deal on the project."

In 1993, Sen. Feinstein helped broker the deal, setting the stage to bring a destination performing arts center to the city and greater L.A. region and collaborating with the Annenberg Foundation for project funding.

Board Chairman Jerry Magnin led Tuesday's ceremony, noting once the deal with the USPS was in place "there was no question what we needed to do."

"Preserve this property for the community," he said, noting the post office's prominence already on the National Register of Historic Places.

"It was not just a post office," he said, citing the familiar communal hub and characters who frequented the area. "It was a place to gather, meet friends, gossip."

Assemblymember Richard Bloom presented the city with a proclamation from the state.

"We have so many wonderful assets here in Southern California," he said, taking a jab at the St. Louis Cardinals being awestruck at the beauty of the region, having to play the Los Angeles Dodgers at home in the Major League Baseball playoffs. "We owe a great debt of gratitude to the Annenberg Foundation."

There were 18 members of the center's architectural team. Zoltan Pali, of Studio Pali Fekete, said he grew up in Beverly hills and frequented the old post office to get stamps for his father so they could send out invoices.

"To grow up in a city and then at some point be able to work in it as an architect, is quite extraordinary," he added.

For more information on the center, visit its website.

There's still an ongoing campaign to collect memorabilia of the complex's centerpiece, the Beverly Hills Post Office. Click here for more information on the "Post About the Post Office" campaign.

Crescent Drive between north and south Santa Monica boulevards is still closed through Oct. 24.


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