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The design for a new Student Performing Arts Center at Penn includes includes two theaters, five rehearsal studios, and teaching and practice spaces (Photo from Penn Today).

The University Board of Trustees reviewed the design for a new Student Performing Arts Center at its meeting on June 15, advancing the project to the next phase. 

The new center, located in the triangular site between Hill and Lauder College Houses, will be 37,300 square feet and cost $75 million to construct, Penn Today reported. The design for the building includes two theaters, five rehearsal studios, and teaching and practice spaces. 

Penn first announced its plans for the building in 2021. The proposal originated with a 2019 study by the Vice Provost for University Life that identified a need for additional student spaces to “meet current and future demand.” The study assessed data provided by the Performing Arts Council, which represents 47 of the more than 70 student performing arts groups on campus. 

“This exciting project will expand the existing spaces that help Penn’s student performing arts scene thrive,” Penn President Liz Magill told Penn Today. “Here at Penn nearly one fifth of undergraduate students are involved in performing arts and film and we anticipate the Student Performing Arts Center will maximize visibility of creative life on campus.”

The center will provide a space for a wide range of art forms, spanning theater, dance, comedy, a cappella, and musical ensembles. It will join a list of buildings, such as Platt Student Performing Arts House and Irvine Auditorium, that currently serve as rehearsal and performance spaces for student groups. In October 2022, Penn also announced plans to build a new theater next to the Annenberg Center with an expected audience capacity of 300 to 350 people. 

Megan Higgins, a rising College senior and A Cappella Council chair, said that she was most excited about the center's two new performance venues: a 300-seat theater with a fly tower and orchestra pit as well as a 125-seat studio theater. 

Higgins noted the difficulty of scheduling rehearsal and performance times given the needs of different groups. She hopes that the new facility would resolve this problem by providing more spaces dedicated to the arts. 

“It’s hard to get everybody the spaces and dates they want for performances, because it’s so limited,” Higgins said. “Having more options will help serve all the performing groups on campus, regardless of whether or not they’re in PAC."

The University is set to begin construction on the center in fall of 2024 and complete the project in winter 2027.