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SF Conservatory to break ground on performing arts campus

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A rendering shows San Francisco Conservatory of Music’s new William K. Bowes, Jr. Center for Performing Arts’ 11th floor recital hall. (Courtesy Mark Cavagnero Associates)

The San Francisco Conservatory of Music is expanding, to the tune of a $185 million Civic Center complex slated to open in 2020.

The building at 200 Van Ness Ave., at Hayes Street, will be called the Ute and William K. Bowes, Jr. Center for Performing Arts, thanks to a $46.4 million contribution from Ute and William K. Bowes, Jr.

At a news conference Wednesday to announce a groundbreaking in July, SFCM President David H. Stull called the donation the largest gift ever given to a conservatory for a facility. He said, “The profound investment has turned a dream into a reality.”

The 12-story project includes two concert halls, classrooms, rehearsal spaces, a recording studio, observation deck and garden, conference center and housing for 420 students, as well as apartments to accommodate 27 rent-controlled households affected by the new construction.

“It’s going to be a completely integrated environment and a microcosm of a 21st century community,” said the project’s architect Mark Cavagnero, adding that the main, upper level performance space will have acoustics rivaling Carnegie Hall and an up-close view of City Hall.

Seeds were sown for the project when the school moved to its current 50 Oak St. site in 2006, said SFCM Board Chairman Timothy W. Foo, who emphasized plans to collaborate with the nearby ballet, jazz center, opera and symphony, and the public.

With a $110 million fund-raising goal, $96 million already has been donated, said Stull, adding, “We’re celebrating 100 years this year, having moved from a house on Sacramento Street to a place in the avenues, to a home on Oak Street, and, now, a full campus.”

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