ENCINITAS — The city of Encinitas and a venerable Solana Beach-based theater company have officially entered into a negotiating agreement to develop a venue at the Encinitas Ranch Town Center several months after the council tentatively supported the creation of the pact.
The ink settled on the contract on Feb. 16 between the city and the North Coast Repertory Theatre, which gives the theater company exclusive negotiating rights with the city to lease the property from the city long term to facilitate the creation of a 350-seat venue.
“While there is no guarantee that the negotiating agreement will result in the actual development of a new venue, we are excited and optimistic that it is an important milestone in bringing excellent live regional theatre and related events to a larger audience,” the theater group said in a statement.
The negotiating agreement lasts for eight months, according to the resolution approved by the City Council on Feb. 16. The city also approved a $25,000 contract with Keyser Marston Associates to facilitate the process.
The theater group originally approached the city in October 2016 when Steve Horine, a developer who it has retained as a consultant, made a 15-minute presentation that laid out the group’s plans for a 350-seat theater at the Town Center site.
The company, best known as “The Rep,” which was founded in 1982 and boasts an annual budget of $2.5 million, just needed to receive the city’s blessing of the plans to start fundraising on its end, Horine said at the time.
The theater company is the latest in a line of organizations that have tried to create a theater on the 0.7-acre pad in the Town Center, which is earmarked for a performing arts venue in the specific plan for that shopping center.
In 2015, Intrepid Theatre Company became the latest in a long line of theater groups to approach the city with interest in the site. The City Council in May 2015 entered into exclusive negotiating rights with Intrepid to move forward with the plans.
A year later, Intrepid and the city halted negotiations after the plans fell through and Intrepid moved its operations to downtown San Diego.
The City Council in 1994 set aside the 0.7-acre site in the Town Center for a theater space as part of the Encinitas Ranch Specific Plan, but it has sat vacant ever since, as several theater companies have attempted to gain tenancy at the location.