San Diego

Residential Highrise in Downtown San Diego: California Theatre's ‘Second Act'

The California Theatre, built in 1927, has been boarded up for more than a quarter-century, gathering graffiti and pigeons

A downtown San Diego landmark that’s gone to ruin is getting closer to new life in the 21st century.

The California Theatre, built in 1927, has been boarded up for more than a quarter-century, gathering graffiti and pigeons.

Civic boosters hope what’s in line to take its place – a 40-story, $125 million residential tower branded Overture -- will jump-start an economic and cultural rebirth in that part of town.

The crumbling theater stands on C Street, a trolley corridor infested with a lot of blight.

“It’s structurally no longer intact,” says Cyrus Sanandaji of Presidio Bay Ventures, who’s heading up the replacement effort. “Its integrity is completely compromised.”

Critics of certain urban settings in the city have dubbed C Street the "Boulevard of Broken Dreams".

Much of the commercial space there is vacant, and the thoroughfare is a haven for the homeless.

The noise of passing trolleys and sight of transients napping on the sidewalks don't exactly add up to an attractive hustle-and-bustle.

State redevelopment incentives ended six years ago, and tax-credit approaches can be financially challenging.

The Overture is designed for 282 living units, a fitness center, lap pool, yoga rooms and seven parking levels – with a replication of the theater’s facades, sign and marquee.

"It'll be (built) with new materials; it won't be contaminated with lead or asbestos,” Sanandaji told NBC 7 in an interview. “It'll be modern in construction, and it'll be one-to-one identical to the original structure that was built -- and incorporated into our development."

Historic preservationists oppose Overture, which is expected to get City Council approval next week.

Bruce Coons, executive director of Save our History Organisation, calls the prospect of the theater’s demolition "a tremendous loss for San Diego".

He told NBC 7 that the group is considering legal action.

Overture’s backers, Sloan Capital and Presidio Bay Ventures, see the project as a catalyst for revitalizing C Street.

“We're hoping that the Overture, and it being the 'second act' of the California Theatre,” says Sanandaji, “will help to bring that life and that play and that entertainment back to 4th and C -- something that's been missing for decades."

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