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Theater company, city to negotiate lease

ENCINITAS — An enthusiastic Encinitas City Council unanimously voted to begin negotiations with a local theater company that wants to build a performing arts center on a city-owned piece of land in the Encinitas Ranch Town Center long targeted for a performing arts venue.

The council voted 5-0 to enter into exclusive negotiations with the Intrepid Theatre Company, which has proposed a two-phase project that will ultimately lead to a 300 to 400 seat performing arts theater being built on the 0.7-acre Town Center plot.

“I appreciate what Intrepid Theatre has done over the years,” Councilman Tony Kranz said. “Tonight is a special night; we are dealing with property that has sat fallow for way too long.”

Intrepid’s proposal calls for the city to lease the land for the company for 55 years at $1 a year and pay for utilities, which would be roughly $11,000 a year. The company would build in the first phase a 130-seat theater. Those efforts would be supported by a $350,000 building campaign the company said it would launch after Wednesday’s approval.

In phase two, six to eight years down the road, Intrepid would expand the footprint to a 350- to 400-seat venue with additional classroom space.

The council, in its approval, formed a subcommittee composed of Mayor Kristin Gaspar and Deputy Mayor Catherine Blakespear to negotiate the terms and the fine print of the lease.

“The devil is in the details,” Councilman Mark Muir said. “It is important to develop clear expectations.”

Intrepid, founded by the Christy and Sean Yael-Cox in 2009, has had a meteoric ascent to the forefront of San Diego’s theatrical community, with revenue growth of 70 to 75 percent each year, all while netting a number of major acting, production and directorial awards.

From 2010 to 2014, Intrepid would stage its productions at San Dieguito High School Academy’s performing arts center before being squeezed out due to decreased theater time. The company currently stages its plays at the San Marcos High School Performing Arts Center, much to the chagrin of their local following, Christy Yael-Cox said.

In addition to its stage productions, the company hosts staged readings, acting workshops and youth drama classes that are also popular with the community.

“This (the Town Center space) would enable us to expand our programming tenfold,” Christy Yael-Cox said.

In 1994, the Encinitas City Council adopted the Encinitas Ranch Specific Plan, which set aside the 0.7-acre parcel in the Town Center for a performing arts space.

Over the years, four theater companies have unsuccessfully attempted to gain tenancy at the location.

Nearly 20 people spoke on the agenda item, with all but one registering support for the company’s proposal.

Most implored the council to vote in favor of the negotiations, citing Intrepid’s high-quality performances and the impact a permanent performing arts space would have on the community.

“It is not only financially important, it is priceless in what it means to the heart of the community,” said Jack Missett, president of the board of directors of the Carlsbad Playreaders, which is based out of the Schulman Auditorium at the Carlsbad City Library.

Paul Smith echoed Missett’s sentiments.

“I’ve lived here for 50 years, and I haven’t seen anything this exciting since I-5 really,” Smith said.

The lone critic of the project was a representative of Carltas Management, which owns the Town Center. He said while he supported the theater company’s efforts, he urged the city to do its due diligence to ensure that Intrepid had the financial capacity to both build and maintain the performing arts center to city standards.