SF JAZZ Center rises in San Francisco music hub

Four months before its grand opening, the SF JAZZ Center is already a significant presence in Hayes Valley.

At a construction site tour last week, leaders responsible for the $53 million, 700-seat, 35,000-square-foot facility were bursting with pride and excitement.

On hand were architect Mark Cavagnero, acoustician Sam Berkow, theater designer Len Auerbach and SF JAZZ founder and Executive Director Randall Kline, who has dreamed about (and prepared for) the country’s first major dedicated jazz facility for three decades.

Kline called the project, constructed by lead contractor Hathaway Dinwiddie, “the ‘Little Engine That Could’ story.”

The unusual building has glass outer walls, allowing visibility from the street of lobbies and  spaces for rehearsals and performances. Facilities include an 80-seat multipurpose ensemble room, a digital lab, cafe, retail shop, box office and administrative offices.

The design provides for flexible reconfiguration of the center’s Robert N. Miner Auditorium from 700 to 300 seats, making the theater an appropriate setting for performances beyond jazz.

The building’s location at Franklin and Fell streets, near Davies Symphony Hall, the War Memorial Opera House and San Francisco Conservatory of Music, is of timely significance as well.

Three months after the center’s Jan. 21 opening, Herbst Theatre and the Green Room will close for two years to accommodate the War Memorial Veterans Building’s seismic retrofit and renovation, leaving some of The City’s performing-arts organizations homeless.

SF JAZZ Executive Operations Director Felice Swapp said the facility will be shared with other organizations. On days jazz isn’t presented, the hall will be available for rental to other organizations.

The center’s opening-week festivities include a ribbon-cutting on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and a concert Jan. 23 with heavyweights including McCoy Tyner, Chick Corea, Esperanza Spalding, Joe Lovano, Joshua Redman, Bobby Hutcherson, Mary Stallings, Rebeca Mauleón, the SFJAZZ Collective and others. Bill Cosby is master of ceremonies.

Many of the artists will appear again Jan. 24-26. On Jan. 27, vibraphonist Hutcherson’s birthday celebration features Savion Glover as well as Tyner, Redman and Stallings.   

The following week’s shows, from Jan. 31 to Feb. 3, are devoted to local artists, and ticket prices are $25.

The season’s artists in residence include violinist Regina Carter, guitarist Bill Frisell and saxophonist Miguel Zenón.

Fundraising has covered almost the entire cost of the center, although officials continue to seek donations to fill gaps and pay for setting up audio-visual facilities.

Among recent contributions is $100,000 in in-kind advertising from The San Francisco Examiner and San Francisco Bay Guardian.

“As a jazz lover and someone who lives in The City, I see the new SF JAZZ Center as an incredible addition to the already vibrant arts community,” says Todd Vogt, publisher of the newspapers. “Every aspect of the design of the center was purposefully and thoughtfully planned to invite people into the venue.”


Where:205 Franklin Street (at Fell), S.F.

When: Jan. 21 – June 2, 2013

Tickets: On sale for SF JAZZ members Oct. 13; to public Nov. 3

Contact: 866-920-5299, http://sfjazz.org

Note: Opening festivities begin Jan. 21 with a ribbon-cutting and open house with free events and tours.

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