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Spothlight San Diego Arts

Arts Beat

December 16, 1987|HILLIARD HARPER

- The San Diego City Council has allocated $1.1 million in federal money to acquire the 1,200-seat North Park Theatre as a neighborhood performing arts center and community meeting hall.

The City Council set aside the federal Community Development Block Grant funds for the theater earlier this month. The vintage theater is located at 2891 University Ave.

"We're researching community groups, dance companies, a whole list of people who did express interest in the use of the theater as a community hall-performing arts center," said a staff assistant for Council member Gloria McColl. McColl has been the moving force in the city's acquisition efforts. The 1928 theater is in her district.

In recent years, the North Park Theatre has been used for musicals, rock concerts, body-building competitions, church services, silent and sound motion pictures. During this year's City Council election campaign, the theater was the site of a major candidate debate that was broadcast over radio.

For more than a year, the California Performing Arts Center operated the theater under a lease-purchase option. But the arts center was unable to raise the $1.3 million price the owner, Horizon Christian Fellowship, set.

Arts Center Executive Director Martin Gregg would like the center to operate the North Park Theatre as a permanent home for local dance and theater companies.

Although the city allocated $1.1 million, the church's asking price for the facility is $1.5 million, said Ed Mitchell, a member of the church's board of directors.

"We think it would be a good step for the city," Mitchell said. "It's a good investment for a lot of people who have a vision for sophisticated theater . . . and a core of focus for the revitalization of North Park.

If the North Park Theatre is bought--the city's property department must first make a detailed appraisal before the City Council votes to make an offer--chances are the theater would be leased at a nominal fee to a private organization to operate it for the city, said Ross McComb, the city's community program administrator.

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