SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – Crews broke ground Friday on the nation’s first stand-alone jazz concert hall, a state-of-the-art performance center that will stand beside established venues for the symphony, opera and ballet.

The San Francisco Jazz Center will offer a 700-seat concert hall to rival Lincoln Center in New York, said Randall Klein, who helped start the SF JAZZ Festival 28 years ago.

“They have a building for jazz, but it’s housed inside of a bigger complex,” he said.

“This is the first building you’re going to be able to drive past and say, oh, there’s the jazz building.”

KCBS’ Anna Duckworth Reports:

What had been the site of an auto repair garage near Civic Center will be a cultural Mecca that welcomes the finest jazz musicians and jazz composers in the world, Klein said.

More than 20 years of planning went into the $60 million project to put a jazz building next to the city’s other cultural institutions.

“Jazz has finally gotten its own place, its own home, really. It’s like jazz is receiving its own home here in San Francisco,” said Leila Smith, a 16-year-old vocalist with the SF JAZZ High School All-Stars who hopes to one day perform there.

Smith said jazz has been transformative for her, and her friends.

“It’s hard to see jazz get cut from education programs, but when you see high school kids or any sort of student receiving jazz as what it is, you see a growth in a person,” she said.

Mindful of the street origins of jazz, the glass and steel theater that will rise on the site at Franklin and Fell streets includes a design element reminiscent of the baseball park.

“There’s a little narrow alleyway that you can look down, a la Pac Bell Park, where someone from the street can actually see into the main stage of the theater,” Klein said.

Actor-musician Terrence Howard was among the roughly 100 on hand for the groundbreaking ceremony. He praised San Francisco for its commitment to the arts in building a center for what had traditionally been the music of the disenfranchised.

“San Francisco, the gateway to the west, the gateway to freedom. It is the right and perfect place for it to be at,” said Howard.

The SF JAZZ Center is scheduled to open in the Fall of 2012.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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