Garver Theater renovations include seismic upgrades

Historic Camas theater revamp set to finish in September 2021

Contributed photos courtesy of Camas School District A photo of the inside of the Joyce Garver Theater in Camas shows the current view of the theater's lobby area. An illustration (right) shows what the theater lobby will look like in September 2021, following a $12 million renovation.

Renovation work on the historic Joyce Garver Theater in Camas hit a snag earlier this year after four remodeling bids came in more than $2 million over budget, but the final piece of the $119 million construction bond passed by Camas School District voters in 2016 is now set to be completed in September 2021.

Representatives from Mahlum Architects and KPFF Consulting Engineers updated the Camas School Board on the theater’s renovation progress on Monday, Jan. 11.

Built in 1935, the theater was an addition to Camas High School until the 1970s, when the high school was demolished. In the mid-1980s, the theater got a slight upgrade, with a new entry and a few interior revamps. The building served as a performance center — for the school district and the greater Camas community — until the district closed the building in 2009 due to safety concerns.

The engineers and architects speaking to the school board Monday likened the seismic upgrade work on the theater with “building a ship in a bottle” and said crews are slotting concrete walls built to resist horizontal forces in the event of an earthquake into the structure of the existing theater.

The architects have tried to use materials and structures from the original building as the base of the new theater, but found much of the original structure was not up to current seismic code and needed to be reinforced to meet modern day safety requirements.

Crews from the Tigard, Oregon-based TODD Construction are currently working on those seismic upgrades, building foundation walls for the restroom additions, replacing the theater’s rigging and preparing to build a new classroom addition on the west side of the building as well as restrooms on the east side. The construction crews will be working on the interior of the building’s two-story open lobby, which will double as an entrance to the theater as well as additional practice space for thespians, over the next few months.

The target date for opening the renovated Garver Theater is September 2021.

Camas school board member Doug Quinn said Monday that it had become clear “why this building was closed” after seeing how much work was needed to bring the building up to current seismic and safety codes, but said he looked forward to seeing the theater “come to life” later this year.

The school board also voted unanimously on Monday to approve A $73,212 change order for structural reinforcing materials, “unforeseen asbestos removal,” a water pressure reduction, deck edge details and an emergency battery for the building’s elevator.

The change order, combined with a previously authorized change order for $369,822, brings the total cost of the Garver Theater renovations up to $12,108,034, which is more than $443,000 over the original contract amount of $11,665,000.