SANTA MONICA, CA-Construction has started on the more than $8-million expansion and renovation of Soka Gakkai International’s Santa Monica World Culture Center at 525 Wilshire Blvd. here.

Santa Monica-based WWCOT designed the 13,615-sf lobby and pre-function space, as well as a 5,500-sf plaza facing Wilshire Boulevard and is also the construction administrator. The project required the demolition of an existing four-story, 45,000-sf building, says Andrea Cohen Gehring, principal in charge of design at WWCOT.

The new facilities will be integrated with the existing 1,200-seat World Peace Ikeda Auditorium, which also will be renovated. Completion is slated for next April, Gehring says, adding that the design of the project will relate to the existing SGI headquarters at 606 Wilshire Blvd.

Founded in the 1930s by a group of Japanese educators who practiced the Buddhism of Nichiren, SGI today has operations in 128 countries, with educational institutions from preschool through post-graduate studies.

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