interior view showing multiple levels of dance center
The new dance facility offers increased studio and classroom space, plus open spaces for community and collaboration.

Sandi Simon Center for Dance Ushers in New Era for Dance at Chapman University The dance center was recently named the winner for rehabilitation in the 2023 California Preservation Foundation awards.

Chapman University administrators, trustees, and special guests gathered at the recently opened Sandi Simon Center for Dance March 27 for a ribbon cutting and celebration with Ron and Sandi Simon, whose donation funded the new facility.

“I hope you feel the love and the gratitude that surrounds you today,” said Daniele C. Struppa, president of Chapman, thanking the Simons for their long-standing support of the university. “Without you, none of this would have been possible. Your generosity through the Simon Scholars program has opened unparalleled opportunities for students at Chapman, and now your vision has enabled us to build this magnificent facility.”

The new center with its three light-filled, interconnected levels, designed by Lorcan O’Herlihey Architects and constructed by RD Olson, has been named the winner for rehabilitation in the 2023 California Preservation Foundation awards, said Collette Creppell, vice president of campus planning.

Near the corner of Palm Avenue and Cypress Street in the transformed 1918 Villa Park Orchards Association Packing House – an icon of the Cypress Street Barrio and the region’s citrus-growing heyday. The new dance center embraces the historic and the new with character-defining features – the ceiling trusses, the north-facing clerestory windows in the quintessential industrial sawtooth roof, and the exposed wood paneling in ceiling/roof interior views – while providing a central and inspired environment for students and faculty. Salvaged original packinghouse flooring is redeployed to create the signature wall of the new soaring central space.

The three levels allow for student performances, studios, classrooms and study spaces, encouraging interaction and conversations, which spill out of the studios into the atrium between classes and into the courtyard for warm-up, yoga, social space, and indeed into the larger campus.

“One of the highlights is the light that pours through the north-facing clerestory windows that are 105 years old,” Creppell said. “And the floor that was removed was transformed into those curved surfaces, so none of that history was lost. It’s now begun its new life for the next 105 years in these beautiful sculpted spaces. We really are able to enjoy this embrace of the old and the new.”

“I will never forget the day that we opened the Sandi Simon Center for Dance to our students,” said Julianne O’Brien Pedersen, chair of the Department of Dance, who described how students flocked through the open, light-filled spaces with gasps of delight and wonder.

“The Sandi Simon Center presents a model for the type of education we have always pursued and aspired to but just did not have the space to put into practice,” Pedersen said. “An education not as a grid-like factory for students being told where to go to get answers, but a joyful, rigorous education that values discovery over directives and play over the prescribed.”

About Chapman University
Founded in 1861, Chapman University is a nationally ranked private university located in Southern California. Chapman is categorized by the Carnegie Classification as an R2 “high research activity” institution and offers personalized education to more than 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The campus has produced a Rhodes Scholar, been named a top producer of Fulbright Scholars, and hosts a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious honor society. Based in the city of Orange, Chapman also includes the Harry and Diane Rinker Health Science Campus in Irvine. In 2019, the university opened its 11th college, Fowler School of Engineering, in its newest facility, Keck Center for Science and Engineering. Learn more about Chapman University:


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Cerise Valenzuela Metzger, Director of Public Relations,
Desk: 714-289-3143 Mobile: 657-390-6760

Cerise Valenzuela Metzger

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