Balboa Village Theater One Step Closer to Opening

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Steve Beazley in front of the Balboa Theater
Steve Beazley in front of the Balboa Theater

Supporters of the Balboa Village Theater have asked the city of Newport Beach to amend its current lease with the city and have the city participate with up to $2 million to improve the theater to a level at which it can open.

In exchange, the Balboa Performing Arts Theater Foundation would raise $2 million for tenant improvements and enough resources to begin operations.

During Tuesday’s city council study session and the city council meeting later that evening, this proposal was debated among the council members.

Councilman Mike Henn, whose district includes Balboa Village, recommended agreeing in concept to the foundation’s proposal.

The council voted 6-1 in favor of the proposal (Councilwoman Nancy Gardner was the lone no vote), but set a deadline of December 31 for the foundation to raise $2 million and present a viable business plan for the council to review and approve.

This new proposal is the latest in a series of efforts by the theater’s foundation to reopen the theater.

In an effort to revitalize the Balboa Village area, the city worked with the then-formed

Theater Foundation to have the city purchase the theater for $480,000 in October 1998, using Community Development Block Grant funds. The city entered into a lease with the Balboa Performing Arts Theater Foundation in November 1998 to manage and operate the Theater. The lease was amended three times to reduce the insurance requirement and to allow more latitude in the historical accuracy of the Theater’s rehabilitation.

Later, the city contributed $175,000 to assist the Theater Foundation to complete plans for a large-scale renovation. The estimated cost of the renovation at the time (2011) was $4.8 million. To pay for the renovation, the Foundation intended to use $800K from cash on hand as well as $4 million in anticipated donations. At the time of a council presentation about the renovation (September 2011), the Foundation hoped to begin construction within a few months.

The new Foundation Board has asked the city council to consider a new plan and direction, which is smaller in scope. The project would restore and improve the shell of the building, with some tenant improvements (seating) as well as theater-ready lighting and sound.

As part of a 50-year lease with the city, rent back to the city would be 2.5 percent of ticket revenue.

The Foundation would raise and hold on deposit $2 million for tenant improvements, the sound and lighting, enough to cover operations for the first year, and “adequate reserves to support the initial years of the theater’s operations.”

“Without City support, the BPATF (Balboa Performing Arts Theater Foundation) will be unable to move with the BVT (Balboa Village Theater) project,” said theater President and CEO Steve Beazley in a letter he sent to Henn in January.

“Councilmember Henn, you have been an ardent supporter of the BPATF and revival of the Theatre and of the Balboa Village area. We are thankful for your concern, consideration and leadership on behalf of your district, and request you to lead the efforts to gain Council approval and spark the project. We at BPATF stand shoulder to shoulder with the city, and hope the Council will rise to the opportunity. In all sincerity, we believe this is the make-or-break moment.”

“We knew it was not going to happen without the city’s commitment,” said Beazley after the council meeting. “So many people have been asking us where the city stands on this. The city has taken the lead on this project, so now we can go back to the community and ask for their support.”

“The conditions they put on final approval were things we would do anyway, and we’re glad they put a time frame on it,” he added. “We have swift momentum now, and I think people will respond.”

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