North Coast Rep inks agreement with Encinitas on potential new space

North Coast Rep artistic director David Ellenstein, pictured at the Solana Beach theater in 2014.
North Coast Rep artistic director David Ellenstein, pictured at the Solana Beach theater in 2014.
(Hayne Palmour IV / U-T file)

And here we go again.

North Coast Repertory Theatre announced Thursday morning, Feb. 16, that it has signed an exclusive negotiating agreement aimed at developing a new performing-arts facility in Encinitas.

NCRT now becomes at least the fifth theater company to propose building a new home on the long-vacant Encinitas Ranch Town Center site, which was earmarked for a potential performing-arts operation when the shopping center along El Camino Real was developed in 1994.

But NCRT, which has occupied its current 194-seat Solana Beach space since 1982, may well have a major advantage because it’s a long-established company with solid financials and a large subscriber base.

The theater had revenues of $2.4 million and an operating surplus of $258,000 for the fiscal year ending in 2015 (the most recent for which figures are available). Its budget has more than doubled since artistic director David Ellenstein came aboard in late 2002.

The news comes not quite two years after Intrepid Theatre entered into its own agreement with the city to move ahead on a new-theater proposal for Encinitas site.

Intrepid eventually bowed out after it became clear the company (now in residence at the Horton Grand Theatre in downtown San Diego) would not be able to raise enough money for the project.

NCRT has been the subject of more than one prospective move in the past, including a project that almost came to fruition near the Solana Beach train station, and the more recent possibility of moving into the One Paseo development in Carmel Valley. (The company also was previously interested in the Encinitas site about a decade ago.)

The Feb. 16 announcement said the agreement “involves negotiation of a long-term property lease in the Encinitas Ranch Town Center. In parallel, North Coast Rep will proceed with assessing the feasibility of design and construction of the new facility.”

It added that NCRT envisions a facility “to better match the high artistic quality of its productions, and to better meet the future needs of the broader San Diego community.

“The agreement with the City of Encinitas represents the next step in this endeavor.”

--James Hebert is a writer for The San Diego Union-Tribune