Fox Theater Project update

Todd Huffman’s interview with Russ Cheverton

Todd Huffman is the Marketing Director for Fox Theater and Producer/Director at Pipeline Digital Media, LLC.

Russ Cheverton owns 360 construction group and does the general construction, renovations, and repositioning of rooms. Currently, his construction group is working on renovating the Fox Theater.

Has 360 worked on historical projects like this?
I don’t know that we’ve ever done anything as old as this and as involved and detailed as this, but we’ve done some renovation work over the years. It’s not our specialty, but it’s quickly becoming our specialty.

What do you like about this project, and what makes the Fox so unique?
Well, you know, everyone has heard of the Fox Theaters. This facility is gorgeous, has a lot of historical significance and great architectural features, and represents the time period well. It’s just a beautiful building.

How exciting is it for the 360 group to work on the project?
Oh, we love it. It’s a great experience, especially for some of the younger guys, but it’s a great experience for all of us because we get to see stuff that was done 75 to 100 years ago compared to what’s being done today. When you’re working on a building that’s this old, you get to see the improvement quickly, and there’s a lot to compare it to because you have the old and the new in the same place.

What is happening with phase three of the project? What are you guys working on?
More than anything, we’re doing backbone work. We’re updating the electrical service, which will also go into the next phase—replacing the mechanical systems and a new air distribution system. We’re adding new restrooms on the first floor and the main floor and trying to make it so the backbone structure will be in place for the next phase, which is what we’re getting ready for. And on top of that, get the restrooms done so that there’s a higher level of convenience so Fox can soon use the place for entertainment or special events.

So, will the public be able to see some progress with what you’re doing here today?
Yes. The restrooms will be accessible. We’re also trying to get some of the main theater lobby and restoration work done there. So, we’re trying to make it so that you see something grand when you walk in the door.

And how is it working with Brian Newell (the Fox President and owner of Maverick Theater) and the rest of the board?
It’s really nice because they all seem to have a personal interest in what’s going on here. It’s something that they’re devoted to. And it makes us feel a little personally involved too. It’s addictive, you know, and it kind of spreads around even with the new employees that come here and work; they kind of get involved in it just on a personal basis as well because it’s really a neat facility. You know, there aren’t many buildings left like this that you get the opportunity to work on. So this is pretty neat.
I promise they’ll all be here with their families, friends, and everybody when it has an opening. “Look what we did. Look what we got to work on.”

What is the biggest challenge for you and your team on this project?
Probably it’s the pace of work. I mean, looking at it from a contractor’s perspective, the pace of work is not what we’re used to. We’re used to a little bit faster pace, and there are numerous reasons why that can not happen. It’d be nice if the architect were here locally; the architect being in Arizona makes it a little bit more difficult for everyone to be on the same page. But that’s not a showstopper. I mean, we’re used to that to an extent.

Have your guys discovered any interesting historical or surprising work on the Fox?
We were talking about that today. The surprising thing is how well-built this building is from being built a hundred years ago. This thing is solid. I don’t know if anything we do to it will be the same nature as what exists because it is totally rock solid.
If you’re going to be in an earthquake, this might be a good place to be.
Not surprising that this place has withstood all earthquakes for 100 years. Now, using the restroom, that’s a little different here. The sewer system leaves much to be desired, but we’re also working on that.

Russ, how important is it for communities like Fullerton to preserve their history like the Fox, and why?
I think it’s very important. It’s stuff that, once it’s gone, generations after us will never get to see. So it would be best to protect the buildings so they understand what it was like a hundred years ago or even 50 years ago. And that’s further and further between now because, as we all know, it’s a developer’s world, and things disappear quickly so that a new product can be brought in. It’s nice to save a piece of the community like this, and in a town the size of Fullerton, there aren’t that many buildings you can do that with, so you need to take advantage of every opportunity you get. And you know, this is a beautiful building. You drive down Harbor Boulevard or Chapman Avenue, and this is what you meet at
the corner. It is pretty cool.

If you were to tell someone from the community, a business leader, someone from some charitable foundation that gives money away, or the city or state why they should support the Fox theater project, what would you tell them?
I don’t know how many opportunities people have to participate in something like this, especially on a personal level, even on the corporate level. There are not a lot of opportunities outside of the Fox Theater for them to bring something as grand and graceful as this building to the 21st century so that everybody can still experience it. This is it. So, it’s an excellent opportunity to be a part of that. I don’t see any reason someone would not want to invest.

What is your connection to this part of the county?
So my family lives in Placentia. We’re next door to Fullerton and always come to Fullerton. We eat dinner here. We have visited many restaurants here, and my kids went to Cal State Fullerton.

Before you were brought on the project, did you drive down Chapman or Harbor and look over the Fox and wonder what was happening or think, what a cool place?
Exactly. I thought, why is this place not open? Especially since the outside got done fairly quickly and has been done for some time now. And the expectation was that it would open just any day now. And I think it’s been that way for a while. Having gotten to experience what’s going on inside, you better understand that it’s a much more involved process than just making the outside look nice. There’s a lot of work to be done on the interior too, but it’s progressing. It’s moving forward. And that’s a good part of it. We like being a part of that. So, yeah, it was neat to drive by it all those years, and then suddenly I get a call from somebody that says, “Hey, you want to come look at this and maybe participate?” I thought that might be a neat idea. So here we are.