City of Newport Beach, Library Foundation hosted Lecture Hall groundbreaking ceremony

Officials from the City of Newport Beach and the Newport Beach Public Library Foundation hosted a groundbreaking ceremony on Tuesday, Feb. 27, to kick off construction of a new library lecture hall adjacent to the Central Library at 1000 Avocado Ave.

The $23.4 million lecture hall, to be known as Witte Hall, is being financed through a cost-sharing agreement between the city and the foundation.

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Photos by Lana Johnson

Newport Beach Mayor Will O’Neill addresses the gathering

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Newport Beach Public Works Director Dave Webb shares a few words

Newport Beach Mayor Will O’Neill noted that the project took shape from a “push and pull of ideas” and “the hall itself will host views expressing nuance and wisdom.”

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Jill Johnson-Tucker, chair of the lecture hall design committee and chair of the “Beyond Books” fundraising campaign for the Lecture Hall

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Kevin Barlow, chair of the Newport Beach Public Library Foundation, speaks to attendees

Jill Johnson-Tucker, chair of the lecture hall design committee and chair of the “Beyond Books” fundraising campaign for the Lecture Hall, said the new facility will “reflect the pride that this community holds for the library and Civic Center complex…fulfilling the library’s mission as the cultural, educational and informational heart of our city.”

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Elizabeth Stahr, along with her late husband John, were the driving force behind the construction of the Central Library, which opened in 1994

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(L-R) Newport Beach Mayor Pro Tem Joe Stapleton and City Councilmembers Brad Avery, Robyn Grant, Noah Blom, Lauren Kleiman and Erik Weigand dig in with their golden shovels at the groundbreaking ceremony

In early January, the city updated its cost-sharing agreement with the Newport Beach Public Library Foundation and approved a $19-million construction contract with AMG & Associates Inc., of Santa Clarita. The 9,814-square-foot building is designed to complement the existing Central Library and City Hall architecture. It will include tiered, stadium seating for 299 people.

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(L-R) Newport Beach Library Board of Trustees – Lauren Kramer (secretary), Chase Rief, Dorothy Larson (vice chair) and Paul Watkins (chair). Not pictured: Antonella Castro.

The Library Foundation has committed $7 million from community donations and has pledged an additional $4.7 million toward the total project cost of $23.4 million. Construction of the Lecture Hall is expected to take about 21 months and be completed by early 2026. The new auditorium will host a variety of authors, speakers, lecturers and other events as scheduled by the city and the foundation. The building will be named Witte Hall in recognition of a donation from Bill Witte and Keiko Sakamoto. Construction was to begin after the groundbreaking.

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(L-R) Elizabeth Stahr, Walter Stahr, Keiko Sakamoto and Bill Witte

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Newport Beach Public Library Foundation board members and Library Board of Trustees join City Councilmembers at the groundbreaking

The city is advising Central Library patrons that parking will be significantly reduced for the duration of construction. If parking is not available, patrons are encouraged to utilize the Civic Center parking structure at 100 Civic Center Drive, with convenient access to the library’s north-facing entrance near City Hall.


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