University City - Celebrating 100 Years
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Celebrating 100 Years

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COCA Announces Ambitious Plan for $40 Million Expansion
Street view along Delmar of COCA's planned $40 million expansion in University City. Rendering courtesy COCA

COCA Announces Ambitious Plan for $40 Million Expansion
Rendering of the proposed state-of-the-art theater (450 seats) to both meet COCA's growing performance Rendering courtesy COCA
COCA Announces 'Create Our Future' Campaign for $40 Million Expansion
ST. LOUIS, MO, (, January 31, 2017 - On the occasion of its 30th anniversary, COCA's Board of Directors has announced the Create Our Future campaign - a $40 million, multi-year fundraising effort to raise $27 million for the capital renovation and expansion of COCA's historic building in University City and $13 million to fund its endowment and reserves.

The ambitious project positions COCA to meet evolving community needs and serve its growing student base, while also sustaining its long-term commitment to ensuring access. Launched quietly in early 2015, the campaign is spearheaded by a 12-member Steering Committee chaired by Cheryl Holman, with Honorary Chairs Alison and John Ferring. Lead gifts include $5 million from the Ferrings and a $3 million lead corporate gift from Centene Corporation. To date COCA has raised over $25 million from private sources - with 100 percent of its Board of Directors, Associate Board, and staff contributing - toward the $40 million goal.

"The arts have shown their power as 'connective tissue,' creating opportunities to bring people together for conversation, innovation and expression," said Jesse Hunter, COCA Board President and Executive Vice President at Centene Corporation. "By strengthening COCA's role as a vital cultural and educational resource, this project is an investment in future generations of all St. Louisans."

Three decades ago, a group of passionate community leaders conceived of and created COCA, transforming the historic B'nai Amoona Synagogue, built by renowned architect Eric Mendelsohn, into a community arts center. The idea: through the arts, COCA would serve as a bridge to connect people divided by income, race, ideas or geography.

"Each year, we serve thousands of young people and see the life-changing results that an arts education has on them. As demand for COCA's programs continues to grow, we want to provide these transformative opportunities for even more kids," said Kelly Pollock, COCA Executive Director.

"As we expand and renovate our building, we remain focused on providing equitable access to our programs for everyone."

The Create Our Future campaign is designed to allow COCA to serve more students in multidisciplinary classrooms and studios and deliver state-of-the-art performances, while nearly quadrupling the organization's endowment, ensuring COCA will be able to serve the St. Louis community for years to come.

With a planned start date in early 2018 and completion in late 2019, the project includes:

  • A state-of-the-art theater (450 seats) to both meet COCA's growing performance needs as well as expand opportunities to host local and touring visiting artists.
  • More than 8,000 square feet of new studio space for COCA's growing programs, including its nationally acclaimed Pre-Professional Program and joint MFA in Dance offered in partnership with Washington University in St. Louis.
  • A visually stunning and highly functional Performance Lab restoring the original architecture of Mendelsohn's sanctuary and providing a central studio, rehearsal hall and informal presentation/event space.
  • New art & design lab and multipurpose instructional space equipped with tools to foster exploration and creativity. o New community space - located throughout the project - to create a more hospitable, welcoming second home for COCA's families and visitors.
  • A designated, safe, and accessible drop-off and pick-up configuration.
  • A new parking garage: COCA's patrons will be accommodated across the street in a new 200+-space parking garage developed in partnership with Washington University. COCA has demonstrated results and achieved national recognition for its model.
Recently, the organization brought in world-class leadership for its dance department in retired Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater company members, Antonio and Kirven Douthit-Boyd. COCA also recently received national accreditation from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Precollegiate Arts Schools (ACCPAS) - making it one of only 17 schools in the country to hold this distinction.

Welcome to the Delmar Loop in University City
Blueberry Hill in the Delmar Loop area of University City
University City Was Built As a Model City
ST. LOUIS, MO, ( - University City was founded in 1906 by businessman Edward Gardner Lewis, who designed it as a model city.

University City is known for its fine residential neighborhoods, art galleries, the business and entertainment district along Delmar Boulevard and the Washington Univerity campus. Two massive lions sculptures by George Julian Zolnay, set atop pylons designed by architects Eames & Young, welcome residents and visitors to the formal city hall plaza.

In 2006, a group of volunteers staged the city's biggest party in 100 years. Their aim was to show that this small but exciting enclave is more a community of culture, diversity and education than even its founder could have imaged.

It was no small task since Lewis was a dreamer, inventor, chemist, artist, education, potter, women's magazine publisher, entrepreneur and politician. But with a theme of 100 Fun things to do in University City, on almost any given day something was happening for fun seekers of all ages.

A celebration was held with the grand opening of Centennial Commons, formerly the Heman Park Recreation Facility. With a nod towards the City's 100th anniversary, the facility underwent a two-year $6M extreme makeover and a name change. The facility is now open for fun, fitness and community events.

The business and entertainment district is also well know as the Delmar Loop, named after the Delmar Streetcar system that provided service for visitors and residents to University City in the early 1900s. The Delmar Loop has been named one of the best 10 streets in America.

In 2000, a strong coalition of supporters, energized by Joe Edwards, owner of Blueberry Hill Restaurant, Pin-Up Bowl, and the Pageant Building, began working on bringing a trolley system back to University City.

Edwards organized the St. Louis Trolley Company (LTC) in 2002 with the help of Citizens for Modern Transit (CMT). The group secured a grant from the East-West Gateway Council of Governments and the Missouri Department of Transportation to purchase and renovate two historic vehicles for the new line. The trolleys are currently on display in front of the Missouri History Museum and Commerce Bank in the Delmar Loop.

On Friday, July 9, 2010, the St. Louis Trolley Company secured nearly $25 million in federal funding for the Loop Trolley System linking Forest Park to the University City Loop. See
Loop Trolley System to Connect Forest Park Attractions with University City Loop Businesses.

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