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Plans Advance For Arts Center
Plans for conversion of Riverbank's Del Rio Theatre into a performing arts center continue to move forward.

But they remain very indeterminate with three options that range from simple renovation of the existing building, to preserving part of the structure and adding new parts, to complete demolition and rebuilding on the adjacent parking lot.

The City of Riverbank purchased the building at Atchison and Third streets for $1.7 million out of Riverbank Development Agency funds last year and commissioned Hibser Yamauchi Architects of Oakland to plan a conversion in collaboration with a committee including city officials, citizens and local arts groups. The committee last gathered with Ken Yamauchi on July 8 to discuss progress to date and possible uses of the interior.

Displaying both a paper schematic and a Styrofoam model of the interior, the architect proposed a division of the existing space to include conversion of the former Bingo Hall on the south side to a 340-seat theater with fixed and sloping seating and a 1,100-square foot stage plus 275-foot apron and orchestra pit.

The north side of the building would remain one-story and be divided up between an entrance lobby with food service, offices and restrooms on the north side, preservation of an existing room as a classroom or music and dance recital room on the east end and a small "green room" set between this and the stage.

Yamauchi emphasized there are several alternative layouts still to be reviewed and plans are very tentative.

"The structural integrity (of the whole building) is not as bad as we thought. The foundation is in good shape. But we must rebrace the walls and install new steel columns and trusses for the roof," he said, adding all the mechanical, electrical and other services, however, are inadequate and must be replaced.

Riverbank Economic Development Manager Debbie Olsen emphasized the city wants the building to cater to as many diverse arts groups as possible including dance, music, painting and sculpture besides the theater. The city also is hoping there will be space for classrooms.

Committee members noted this layout provides no dressing rooms for the theater, only a small "green room" where stage sets are stored and actors wait prior to going on stage.

There appeared to be insufficient space for both "a recital room" and classrooms. The recital room could be built with "a sprung floor and mirrors" to cater to dance and musical performances, Yamauchi said. But in that case it would be a "more formal space" and could not do double duty as "a wet room" such as a painting or sculpture class would require.

Built in the 1950s in art deco style, the building is not specifically of historic value but has sentimental significance for many residents.