Renovations underway at historic Berkeley Community Theatre

Renovations have begun at the 70-year-old Berkeley Community Theatre on the Berkeley High campus.

The $45 million project, scheduled to be completed in summer 2022, will redo the 3,500-seat community theater and the 575-seat Florence Schwimley Little Theatre, according to Bay Area-based Alten Construction who are conducting the work with CAW Architects. The project also includes modifying classrooms connected to the theater and making needed seismic upgrades.

Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel, Joni Mitchell, Bruce Springsteen and many more performed at the theater in its heyday, but the large space has most recently being used for Berkeley High shows and community events.

Crews will install a new rigging system and add a backstage hallway allowing performers to cross from one wing to the other. The roof and five existing floor levels in the classroom wing will be demolished to make way for three aligned floors of music classrooms, a drama classroom and a scene shop. Electrical and fire-sprinkler systems in the buildings will be updated, and an upper-level elevator will provide access to classrooms and the main auditorium balcony.

The project is currently being funded by Measure I, the 2010 school facilities bond. It may also draw funding from Measure G, a $380 million facilities bond approved by voters in March.

“We aim to create access that ties the Berkeley Community Theatre into the rest of the campus and breathes new life into a building that has hosted so many music legends over the past 70 years,” John Calise, executive director of facilities for Berkeley Unified School District, said in a news release.