Arlington's performing-arts center will undergo a transformation from an empty shell to a state-of-the-art facility beginning as early as January. The Arlington Education Foundation...

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Arlington’s performing-arts center will undergo a transformation from an empty shell to a state-of-the-art facility beginning as early as January.

The Arlington Education Foundation, looking to raise $2 million so the guts of the building can be finished, has all but completed its fund raising thanks to two local couples and a recent decision by the City Council.

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In October, city officials pledged $500,000 over the next four years to help cover costs associated with the performing-arts center, which is attached to Arlington High School. Two Arlington couples pledged $100,000 each, bringing total donations just $8,000 shy of the $2 million goal.

For almost two years, the building has sat empty. The Arlington School District had agreed to build the outer shell of the arts center as part of the new high school if the community would complete the interior.

Fund raising by the Arlington Education Foundation, a volunteer group pushing for an arts center, was needed to complete the deal.

With money in the bank, construction most likely will begin next month, school-district officials say. The center could be used by bands, dancers, musicians and other art lovers by September.

“We received two individual donations from local community members within a week of each other,” said Kathy Burkholder, an Arlington Education Foundation board member.

Brent and Connie McKinley, who had contributed $100,000 when fund raising began, agreed to send another $100,000 so construction could start.

A. Loren Kraetz and Patricia Kraetz also agreed to support the project with $100,000. A. Loren Kraetz, an Arlington High alumnus, said a similar project in Mount Vernon had initially raised his interest.

“At first, I wasn’t in favor of it because I don’t think the present [school] administration has enough business sense,” Kraetz said, referring to the fact the school district will operate the building once it is finished.

But a tour of the empty facility by a recent high-school graduate and a little prodding by a former classmate — Arlington Mayor Margaret Larson — persuaded Kraetz it was money well-spent.

Volunteers have worked hard to collect enough money to complete the interior. The group has used a professional grant writer to secure money from the Seattle-based Harvest Foundation and the state.

A gala in May helped bring in more than $130,000, including a $50,000 grant from the D.V. and Ida J. McEachern Charitable Trust, a Seattle philanthropic program that helps children.

Overall, it has taken a little less than three years to reach the financial goal, Burkholder said, and nearly $700,000 has come from local private contributors.

Though there are stairs and empty rows inside the building, there are no handrails, doors, restroom facilities, lights or seats.

“There’s basically concrete walls and concrete floors,” said school-district spokeswoman Catherine Russell. “There’s not anything else.”

Investors hope a local contractor will be hired to complete most of the work, and specific projects, including the sound system, could be bid out separately.

Arlington residents hope to showcase the building so that it eventually will be known regionally, Burkholder said.

“While it is located and owned by the school district, it is a global community resource,” she said. “Groups from all over North Snohomish County will be able to use it if they choose.”

When completed, the center will seat about 700 people.

Christopher Schwarzen: 425-783-0577 or