Marin Center Campus Projects Ramp Up

Posted on September 14, 2023

For Immediate Release –

San Rafael, CA –

Veterans’ Memorial Auditorium progressing, campus entry work to begin soon


Marin Center parking lot with deteriorated pavement. The Marin Center building is visible in the background. There are a couple cars parked in the parking lot.
The pavement in the Veterans’ Memorial Auditorium parking lot is deteriorated and in need of replacement. The project will also bring various other improvements to the entry gateway area of the Marin Center, including improved stormwater drainage and underground infrastructure for future electrical needs.

Construction for the Veterans’ Memorial Auditorium (VMA) parking lot and north campus improvements project will begin in late September. The VMA is one of the centerpieces of the national landmark Marin County Civic Center in San Rafael. Access to the parking lot will be closed during the construction phase. The $7.5 million project is expected to be completed by May 2024.

This undertaking is not simply a parking lot paving project, it is a rebuild of the entry gateway to all the Marin Center facilities, including the VMA, the Exhibit Hall, the Showcase Theater and the County Fairgrounds, each of which serve the public in a variety of cultural and artistic capacities. The lot is also used for popular events such as the weekly farmers market and seasonal French Antique Market.

The condition of the existing parking lot pavement dictates the need for it to be replaced. In addition to new asphalt paving, the new parking lot will feature pervious concrete with permeable drainage areas. The pervious concrete will act as a stormwater pollution mitigation system, since water will percolate down to the groundwater level, leaving the dust and other particles on the concrete. New drains and storm drain piping will be installed, as well as conduits for the various electrical wiring running beneath the parking lot and conduits for new fiber-optic cables. The new electrical and fiber-optics infrastructure will allow for future upgrades, such as electric vehicle charging stations possibly being added to the parking lot with minimal disturbance.

Additionally, new lighting will be installed throughout the lot, as well as drought-friendly irrigation for plantings and landscaped areas that support water reclamation. The parking lot layout will be improved for a more efficient traffic flow, parking plan and pedestrian access throughout. The work also includes accessibility improvements per federal and state regulations.

The VMA parking lot and north campus improvements project plan was developed to have the construction phase overlap with the VMA seismic retrofit project, which is being handled separately, with the intention of minimizing the overall duration of impact to public access for the Marin Center campus.

The 2,001-seat VMA, Marin County’s largest indoor performance space, is undergoing a seismic retrofit that will improve resiliency of the 52-year-old facility in the face of potential future disaster events. The construction phase began in June 2023, at which time the facility was closed to the public to allow for the work.

The seismic upgrades will bring the iconic VMA building up to modern safety standards. This includes strengthening the theater stage roof, strengthening the stage walls, bracing the suspended control room, and bracing the plaster ceilings. Accessibility updates are also included in the project.

The Marin Center campus, which includes the VMA, the Showcase Theater and the Exhibit Hall, was designed by William Wesley Peters of the famed Taliesin architecture school founded by Frank Lloyd Wright. The historic facility was built in 1971 and has been a renowned arts and cultural center for Marin County ever since. In addition, the VMA is considered an emergency evacuation shelter and has been utilized in emergency situations over the years, including wildfire responses, Pacific Gas & Electric’s Public Safety Power Shutoff events, and in the initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Improving the building’s structural resilience is crucial for the ongoing safety of all users of the facility.

It is anticipated that the VMA seismic retrofit project will be completed in spring 2024. The estimated $6.1 million project is funded by a $3.7 million FEMA grant, with the remaining $2.4 million coming from the County’s Capital Improvement Fund.

With regard to funding for the VMA parking lot and north campus improvements project, the pervious concrete portion is being paid for by a $1,620,770 Caltrans grant to mitigate stormwater pollution. The remainder of the $7.5 million project comes from the County’s Capital Improvement Fund, and funds were set aside incrementally from the budget since 2012 to cover the cost. This set-aside process is a standard practice for responsible budgeting for large projects.


Rosemarie Gaglione
Public Works

3501 Civic Center Drive.
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 473-6530

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