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Encinitas to negotiate lease with Intrepid Theatre

The theater pad at Encinitas Ranch Town Center has sat vacant for years. Intrepid Theatre is proposing to transform the space into a performing arts theater
( / Jared Whitlock)

A new performing arts center could be built in Encinitas in the not-too-distant future.

The Encinitas City Council last week voted unanimously to enter into exclusive lease negotiations with Intrepid Theatre Company, which wants to build a performing arts theater on the city-owned theater pad at the Encinitas Ranch Town Center.

“Tonight is a special night, because we’re dealing with a piece of property that has sat fallow for way too long,” Councilman Tony Kranz said.

Intrepid is proposing a 55-year lease at $1 a year in order for the company to construct a 130-seat theater in the next 12 to 18 months. A second phase in six to eight years calls for a larger theater complex on the spot that would encompass the 130-seat theater.

Under the proposal, the city would cover the utilities installation and the annual utilities bill, estimated at $11,000.

Cristy Yael-Cox, producing artistic director of Intrepid, said it’s the fastest-growing theater company in San Diego County, with year-over-year revenue growth of 70 percent to 75 percent since opening in 2009.

“We’re just getting started,” she said. “A permanent home will enable us to expand our programming tenfold.”

The company, which puts on a mix of Shakespeare and modern plays, has consistently earned praise from critics, Yael-Cox said.

She said Intrepid moved to Encinitas in 2010 and has built a local following — so much so that Encinitas residents were disappointed when the company temporarily set up in San Marcos last summer, Yael-Cox added.

Besides productions, Intrepid also offers a monthly reading series at the Encinitas Library, summer camps and Shakespeare school tours, an effort to bring theater to underserved students.

The city took over the 0.7-acre theater pad 14 years ago. Two development companies originally owned it, but the development agreement specified that if a theater company didn’t build on the land by 2001, ownership would transfer to the city.

Since then, Miracle Theatre Productions pitched a theater at the pad. Yet the idea was scrapped when the organization was unable to secure a loan for the project. North Coast Repertory Theatre, too, was interested, though it ultimately stayed in Solana Beach.

Nineteen public speakers voiced support for Intrepid’s plan.

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

Edward Cooper, a retired San Dieguito Academy teacher, said two of his former students gained quite a bit of confidence as a result of being in Intrepid Theatre productions.

“These two students changed markedly,” Cooper said.

The council agreed to set up a subcommittee made up of Deputy Mayor Catherine Blakespear and Mayor Kristin Gaspar to hash out the lease details.

Gaspar proposed forming the subcommittee, saying it would give the city “the ability to sit down with Intrepid and work through the process, versus us trying to create something without their input.”

Intrepid is scheduled to launch a $350,000 fundraising campaign to support the 130-seat theater, according to the agenda report.

A 2002 survey from the Encinitas Commission for the Arts found that 66 percent of residents surveyed felt the city should encourage the development of a performing arts theater, the highest response among 13 arts venue and event choices.


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