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view of the mexican american cultural center

MACC seeks full expansion cost – up to $40M – in fall bond election

Wednesday, March 14, 2018 by Chad Swiatecki

The advisory board for the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center will ask members of City Council to more than double the $15 million that was recently recommended to be provided to the center from an expected fall bond proposal for city infrastructure.

At its meeting last week, board members voted to write a joint letter asking Council to approve up to $40 million for the MACC to cover the total expected cost of a renovation and expansion within the next five years.

The city’s Bond Election Advisory Task Force last month recommended MACC receive $15 million from the proposed $851 million in public works projects, with a vote on the entire package expected to appear before voters this fall. Council has the final decision on the bond package’s size and how its funds will be allocated.

Board Member David Goujon agreed to draft the letter for the other members’ approval and said he expects it will be delivered by the end of the week to each Council member personally by the MACC board member that they nominated.

“We see our city growing rapidly, and the MACC should be growing with it because there is a huge demand for the use of what a cultural center can provide,” Goujon said. “This (expansion) should have happened a long time ago, so we’re asking for the full amount of around $40 million. We want to let them know that this is needed so we can serve as a beacon to the community.”

The proposed expansion includes 68,000 square feet of new classrooms, meeting areas and gallery spaces, a “gran entrada” entrance, an amphitheater and a new theater space to accommodate up to 500 people.

Goujon said he and other board members prefer public money as a way to fund the expansion instead of mounting a capital campaign or applying for grants.

“We know that $15 million is not adequate and getting to $40 million from there is a huge gap,” he said. “We would evaluate our options as a board, but that would almost certainly mean lots of community input would wind up getting partitioned because we’d have to start deciding what we could do without.”

Kathy Vale Castillo, a board member until her resignation earlier this year, attended multiple meetings of the bond task force and said it will be difficult to convince city leaders to dedicate more money toward cultural arts use in a bond package that is heavy with expensive infrastructure projects.

“Fifteen million is not to be disregarded. … If they want to ask for more, the needs are great at this time for the infrastructure of the city,” Castillo said. “The time has come where the Mexican American Cultural Center needs to move forward with a capital campaign that could be run in coordination with the wishes of the board. And there’s also a decent chance that the MACC may be able to access (Hotel Occupancy Tax) funds with the mayor’s ‘downtown puzzle.’”

Kim McKnight, the project manager and cultural resource specialist managing the new MACC master plan process for the Parks and Recreation Department, said she’s worked to provide the board with information about funding options for the expansion but is prohibited from advocacy because of her public service role.

“With the use of HOT funds, everyone would need to understand everything that would entail, including the need to involve tourism and the convention industry in some way, and that would play into how the facilities would be used,” she said. “I’m not surprised by the letter because the board is very passionate about the MACC.”

Photo by Billy Hathorn (assumed based on copyright claims). [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons.

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