Julianne and George Argyros Give $13.5 Million for Arts Center

Julianne and George Argyros Give $13.5 Million for Arts Center

The Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California, has received a $13.5 million gift from Julianne and George Argyros in support of a $68 million fundraising campaign, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The gift from the former U.S. ambassador to Spain and his wife will help fund a redesign of the center's outdoor plaza that is intended to make it more appealing to a broader, more diverse audience. New features will include outdoor spiral staircases, tree-shaded green spaces, a café, and two permanent outdoor stages that will host a variety of community-oriented performances and events. In recognition of the gift, the 46,000-square-foot plaza will be named the Julianne and George Argyros Plaza.

All but $14 million of the $68 million the center hopes to raise through the campaign, however, will be used to address a large fundraising shortfall that has existed since the center borrowed $240 million to build the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall and adjoining plaza, then fell more than $50 million short in its efforts to raise funds to cover interest payments on the construction bonds and pay off the principal. While the outstanding debt had been reduced to $190.6 million as of mid-2014, it still exceeded the value of the center's $185.5 million investment portfolio. With the Argyroses' gift, the center has raised a total of $42 million toward its $68 million campaign goal.

The couple's previous support for arts organizations in Southern California include a $10 million gift to South Coast Repertory in 2007 in support of its productions and for maintenance of the theater's Julianne Argyros Stage, and a $1.5 million gift to the Orange County School of the Arts earlier this year.

"[T]he board said we need to take care of our financial [issues], but we must plan for a future of community relevance," Segerstrom Center president Terrence W. Dwyer told the Los Angeles Times. "When you say you're creating a 'town square', you say you're creating a space everyone can use and where everyone is welcome."