FHDA board initiates process for replacing De Anza’s Flint Center

Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
The Foothill-De Anza Community College District Board of Trustees voted to permanently close the Flint Center.

While supporters lament the loss of the Flint Center, leaders in the Foothill-De Anza Community College District are moving ahead with a plan for replacing the performing arts center.

Foothill-De Anza Chancellor Judy Miner noted the board voted 4-1 to permanently close the 2,400-seat theater but also initiated a plan “to build a new facility that will better serve students, meet community needs for a cultural venue and meeting space to the greatest extent possible and provide an income stream.”

Trustees directed staff to “bring an action plan” back to the board for discussion at their Oct. 7 meeting, Miner said.

“The action plan will identify timelines and milestones leading to the preparation of multiple site development proposals for the board’s consideration by the end of calendar year 2020,” Miner said in a statement. “Thereafter, staff will bring monthly progress reports to the board to allow for ongoing oversight and review of progress, including identification of potential funding sources.”

Many of the nearly 40 speakers at the board’s June 10 meeting lobbied trustees to replace the Flint Center with student housing in an effort to address what they framed as an increasing student homelessness problem. One student raised a sign claiming that more than 30% of students currently attending De Anza College are homeless.

Generational clash

But several speakers, some representing performing arts groups that have used the Flint Center, urged the board to keep it open even as district leaders looked at the nearly $50 million price tag to make it structurally safe.

At times, the dialogue devolved into a clash between young students who reminded trustees that their first allegiance was to them and older community members who wanted to retain a favorite performing arts venue. But board trustees and some speakers pointed out the issue was not “either-or,” and that the Flint site could meet the needs of both students and the community at large.

“We look forward to using the next year for gathering input from students, employees and the public,” Miner said. “Thus far, it is clear that there is overwhelming support for a flexible space that could host district and community events beyond the capacity of De Anza’s Visual and Performing Arts Center (400 seats) and Foothill’s Smithwick Theatre (941 seats). This need will be a key component in initial conceptual designs.”

Miner said the district intends to hold a town hall meeting to discuss its action plan, following the board’s scheduled October discussion.

Opened in 1971, the Flint Center, named for the district’s first superintendent, Calvin Flint, played host to the popular Celebrity Forum Speaker Series. Founded by former Foothill College dean Richard Henning, the series ended this year after 51 seasons. Despite that success, the building saw 17-24% occupancy any given year.

“Of course I was disappointed, but considering the cost to repair it, I was not surprised that the Flint Center will be closed,” Henning said last week. “I believe one of the proposals is to replace it with a smaller theater, 1,000 to 1,200 seats. This would result in the theater being used much more often. Besides the Foothill College Celebrity Forum, there were few programs that filled the Flint Center’s 2,400 seats. Fifty-plus years was a pretty good run.”

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