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SLO representative changes plans for new theater and asks for money amid rising costs | News | San Luis Obispo

Skyrocketing construction costs have put San Luis Obispo Repertory Theater’s long-discussed plans for a new downtown performing arts center out of reach.

Now, SLO Rep is revising his project design and asking the City of SLO for a $3.94 million boost to help him get to the finish line.

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  • Courtesy of SLO Representative and City of Slo
  • RISE IN COSTS The price of a new SLO Repertory Theater in downtown SLO has doubled in recent years, prompting design changes and a new fundraising plan.

“We were determined not to abandon the project,” SLO Representative Senior Artistic Director Kevin Harris and Board Chair Pam Nichter wrote in a joint letter to the city last month. “We are seeking your approval for a $3.94 million challenge grant from one-time funds to ensure the construction of a new SLO Performance Theater.”

At its February 15 meeting, the SLO City Council will consider setting aside funds for the SLO Representative, whose proposed theater is on city property and has been planned in tandem with a new city parking lot at the corner of Palm and Nipomo streets, which will soon sprout.

The $3.94 million is available as part of a “fund balance” — or year-end savings from the prior fiscal year, according to city officials.

“The city sees this as a great opportunity to support the downtown economy, and it’s another way to move forward on economic recovery and resilience,” said Whitney Szentesi, SLO’s public communications manager, in an e-mail of February 9 to new times.

Originally planned as a three-story, 22,000 square foot building with two theaters, rehearsal spaces, classrooms, offices, and more, SLO Rep is narrowing its vision after a recent study showed the price had nearly doubled from $9.5 million to $18. million, due to “various delays”. The cost is “beyond the fundraising ability of SLO Rep,” according to Harris and Nichter.

“This price represents a cost per square foot that would likely set a record for downtown construction,” reads the SLO representative’s letter to the city.

In December 2021, the SLO Rep Board approved a new design for the theatre, which preserves the goal of building a 205-seat main theater and a 99-seat “black box theatre” downtown, but moves offices, costume and set construction facilities, classrooms and off-site rehearsal spaces to a building on Empleo Street, at the former headquarters of People’s Self-Help Housing.

The cost of this project is currently projected at $14.3 million, and SLO Rep says it has raised $5.6 million to date, with assurances that it can eventually reach $10.4 million. dollars in fundraising. The city grant would make up the difference, Harris and Nichter said.

“This plan presents a clear path to completing a critical pillar of SLO’s Cultural District at a cost significantly less than $18 million,” their letter read. “It also offers significantly more functionality and programming. … Notably, it will allow SLO Rep to exponentially expand its educational programming at least two years earlier than originally planned.”

Appealing to the city, SLO Rep argued that its new “two-site” plan is embraced by the project’s donors and that the theater will be an economic and cultural engine for the city “for decades to come” once ended.

“Once fully operational, the new theater would deliver 324 shows per year on 176 dates, generating an economic impact of more than $3 million per year,” Harris and Nichter said. “For a relatively modest investment, the city would be able to complete a large central portion of its downtown concept plan.”

The letter also pointed out that the city will ultimately own the theater as a community asset. If it advances on schedule, the theater will open to the public in 2027. Δ

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