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Perforated façade on a large two-story building in Sacramento. Perforated white metal scrim on the exterior shades from the sun. First floor open to the street with full glass windows.
SAFE Credit Union Performing Arts Center

Transformative Commitment to Community


City of Sacramento

Project Location

Sacramento, CA


126,500 SF



Opened in 1976, the SAFE Credit Union Performing Arts Center (formerly Sacramento Community Center Theater) was a professional performing arts center in dire need of a transformation. The aging brutalist structure stood closed off from view and separated from the surrounding urban fabric. With aging infrastructure, the building needed a comprehensive modernization to meet the escalating requirements of contemporary performance and to present a new face to the public.

The renovation and expansion opens the building to the surrounding urban fabric and brings Sacramento’s rich culture of trees into the building. A material palette of transparency contrasts with the former façade’s opaque concrete and creates a welcoming presence at the pedestrian level. A lacy scrim providing dappled light reminiscent of a tree canopy surrounds the formal lobby at the south and continues to the north as cover to an outdoor room. Major renovations to the audience chamber and orchestra pit included the installation of the largest electro-acoustic enhancement system in California, transforming an acoustically poor and visually confusing interior space into a warm, inviting, acoustically superior performance space.

New Image, Equitable Access, Superior Acoustics

DLR Group’s comprehensive renovation design of SAFE Credit Union Performing Arts Center reinforces a communal sense of place, expands adjustability and spreads quality sound throughout the space, and revitalizes the heart of downtown Sacramento.

New Image, Equitable Access, Superior Acoustics


Transformation of an Aging Building

Inspired by Sacramento’s City of Trees slogan, both the exterior and interior design approach reinforce a communal sense of place. The softness of trees directly contrast with the historic brutalist concrete building providing the transformation the public was anticipating. The renovated and expanded building is designed for patrons to experience a feeling of discovery, much like meandering through a park. Subtle and profound moments blend – like the custom carpeting, the copper on the concierge bar, the monumental feel of the Cacophony art piece – to create a unique experience. The goal was for people to keep coming back and to see or discover something new each time they return. The custom carpet design evokes a sense of walking through trees – leaves become puddled and gather in piles. Subtle moments like these promote feelings of discovery.


Electro-Acoustic Enhancement System

The 1970s theater had reached its limits, relying heavily on curtains and drapes to modify sound for different performances. With inadequate conditions disrupting performances, DLR Group needed to design an acoustically superior space to adapt for performances yet to be imagined. Our solution expands adjustability and spreads quality sound throughout the space. There is not a bad seat in the house, acoustically speaking.

Looking down the isle towards a theater stage where a symphony is playing, surrounded by standalone, operable wood acoustic panels

The Sacramento Philharmonic & Opera and the Sacramento Choral Society & Orchestra tuning for the first time on the stage.

Looking down from a theater balcony showing a wood panel theater, red carpeting, and up lighting while a symphony plays on a large black stage

Revitalizing Downtown Sacramento

The removal of the entire audience chamber floor and provisions of new seating and aisles throughout have transformed the venue’s interior from acoustically poor and visually confusing into an inviting, acoustically superior performance space.
This inclusive design provides a venue to the people of Sacramento that is unique to their community and needs, revitalizing the heart of downtown and bringing it one step closer to defining itself as the premier cultural institution in the state capitol.

Featured Video
Revitalizing Downtown Sacramento with Transformative Design

Watch how the SAFE Credit Union Performing Arts Center was transformed into a building that actively welcomes the city of Sacramento by connecting both the interior and exterior to its history.


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