Newport Beach Negotiates Sale of Balboa Theater

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The city of Newport Beach and the parent company behind The LAB, a trendy retail and dining destination in Costa Mesa, have nine months to hammer out the city’s sale of the Balboa Theater for its transformation into a multi-purpose event center.

The Newport Beach City Council unanimously approved an exclusive negotiating agreement with LAB Holding, LLC at its April 12 meeting without discussion.

“After careful review and consideration of the proposals, staff believes the proposal from Lab Holding, LLC. (The Lab), will best meet the city’s objectives to redevelop the property, establish a business that will complement the existing Balboa Village business community, and provide space for a multi-use community event center,” according to a city staff report.

At the core of the historic restoration of the 5,200 square foot building would be a small live music stage where Orange County musicians could perform to a standing crowd, and pub counter. There would also be an “intimate” neighborhood cafe that would also cater events. Finally, there would be a gathering room for private celebrations such as meetings and small weddings.

“We are excited by the opportunity to resurrect this community amenity for Balboa Village,” Shaheen Sadeghi, president of LAB Holding, said in a letter to the city. “We understand the importance these landmarks play in our community and would be honored to have the opportunity to work with this building.”

The city touted LAB Holding’s experience in restoration of historic structures and operating event and performance venue. If the sale goes through, Lab Holding would restore the original facade of the Balboa Theater by bringing back its historic marquee.

A deed restriction on the property permit uses of a theater, cultural center, event center and other performing arts uses.

Besides the LAB, LAB Holding also operates its sister anti-mall the CAMP and the Anaheim Pack District. Sadeghi’s team restored the Packing District, which was built to serve Orange County’s citrus industry in 1919, as a food hall that that also serves as a community gathering place complete with live music during the weekend.

The Balboa Theater operated as a theater from the when it was built in the late 1920’s to its closing in 1992, according to a staff report. The city acquired the building in 1998 and leased it to the Performing Arts Theatre Foundation. That lease was subsequently terminated in 2014 and was considered as a site for a community center before the completion of Marina Park Community Center.

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