CMA building still pending approval

COVID-19 delays and undetermined department relocations are just some of the problems the cinema and media arts building faces.

Chris Charpentier, Staff Writer

In 2017, the university announced plans for a new cinema and media arts building. The three-story, 56,000 square foot building includes a 300-seat screening theater, a 3,000 square foot soundstage, new foley studios and a student café. However, despite the ambition and passion behind this project, approval delays due to COVID-19 slowed down building preparations.


According to Associate Vice President of Facility and Auxiliary Operations Brian Phillips, the main issue halting progress in breaking ground on the CMA building is the delayed approvals from Los Angeles County.

“We submitted the project plan check over two years ago and still don’t have approval,” Phillips said. “That’s unprecedented for a [plan check] to take that long.”

Phillips explained how L.A. County goes through multiple rounds of review over construction plans before a building permit is issued by La Mirada and due to COVID-19, these meetings were limited. In addition to this, the La Mirada building department needs to create a master plan, outlining building requirements for the CMA building.

“They want to know that we’re going to have enough parking. They want to know the height of our building, the square footage of the buildings, impacts to the community traffic, all those things get considered,” Phillips stated. “But then once that [master] plan is approved, then we’re entitled to build anything on the plan.”


The university must also consider relocating departments inside the construction area, including the CMA and journalism offices inside of Perez Hall and the new music therapy department.

“That’s the major piece that we haven’t quite worked out yet. It could be that we’ll find some temporary space for them someplace within Biola buildings, but we just haven’t determined that yet,” Phillips said.


As previously reported, a $76 million budget funds the new CMA building. However, the amount of money fundraised for the project remains unknown.

“We’re 100% in fundraising mode,” said Tom Halleen, dean of the School of Cinema and Media Arts. “My hope is that we’ll be able to reach [the minimum budget threshold] by fall.”

Both Phillips and Halleen reiterated that once construction starts, it will take two years from breaking ground to building completion.


Despite logistical issues the department faces in planning the new building, anticipation and excitement is still high. 

Halleen said that the building will be “a visual statement of commitment and credibility to the industry itself.”

Phillips also mentioned that this building will be a step up from the most recent Alton and Lydia Lim Center for Science, Technology and Health

“A lot more consultant teams [are] working on this project, who have expertise in this,” Phillips said. “It’s really important that we hire contractors who really understand these types of building systems because it’s crucial that we get it right.”

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