Construction contract awarded for Pacific View Elementary School renovation

Property along Third Street in Encinitas will become a city cultural arts center


Encinitas has selected a contractor for the multimillion-dollar transformation of the former Pacific View Elementary School into a city cultural arts center, and construction work is expected to begin this winter.

The old school property occupies a downtown city block along Third Street between E and F streets.

“I feel proud of being the mayor at the time we actually break ground on it,” Mayor Catherine Blakespear said Thursday, Oct. 27, as she discussed the Pacific View renovation plans.

Blakespear said she can remember speaking at City Council meetings in favor of turning the old school property into a city arts center before she was elected in 2014, and she isn’t the only elected official whose ties go way back. Councilmember Tony Kranz was involved in negotiating the land purchase agreement with the school district, Councilmember Kellie Hinze’s mother used to teach at the former elementary school, and Councilmember Joy Lyndes drew the original landscape plans for the volunteer group — Encinitas Arts, Culture and Ecology Alliance — which hoped to manage the property after the city purchased it.

“So, four of the five of us have been deeply involved on the community level for basically the whole time,” Blakespear said Thursday, Oct. 27.

Citing declining enrollment, the Encinitas Union School District closed Pacific View Elementary School in 2003. The place sat vacant for years while the district explored various sales proposals, including to a housing developer, before eventually selling it to the city for $10 million in 2014. Initially, city officials vowed that the place would be independently managed and funded, but various permitting and insurance issues created challenges. Ultimately, the arts alliance group asked the city to take over and city officials began exploring their renovation options last year.

On Wednesday, Oct. 26, the council unanimously voted to award the renovation contract to Conan Construction Inc. Under the terms of the contract, Conan is to receive $4.56 million and there’s also a 20 percent contingency fund set aside for any contract amendments. The council also has hired Kleinfelder Construction Services at a cost of $800,000, plus a 15 percent contingency, to manage and inspect the construction project.

Construction activities are expected to start later this winter and conclude by July 2024, a city staff report states.

Plans call for adding a new roof, flooring, countertops and lighting fixtures, as well as overhauling the structure to make it more earthquake-proof, renovating its aging electrical system, adding a fire sprinkler system, and replacing the walkways and doorways to make them compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The Wednesday, Oct. 26 City Council vote was a bittersweet moment for some arts coalition members who attended the meeting. Several of them told the council they were glad the city was finally taking action to get the building open to the public, but they were sad that the construction activity would eliminate some of their volunteer renovation work, including repainting both inside and out.

Encinitas Friends of the Arts board member Kathleen Lees said her organization expects to continue to help out with fundraising. The city will need money for landscaping and building furniture, which is not included in the city’s new construction contract, she said. The friends arts group also is going to advise the city on paint color choices.

One item that remains undecided is what uses will occur in the future arts facility. When the coalition group was proposing to manage the place, there were a broad range of proposals, including everything from storm water collection education sessions to children’s dance classes. When the city took over, the plans were downsized to focus on arts-only programing.

Blakespear said the city will be doing community outreach in the coming months to find out what arts programming residents want at the site.