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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on May 15th, 2014, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 15, Issue 10 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 15, Issue 10

Lompoc Theater edges closer to financial freedom

BY CAMILLIA LANHAM

The city of Lompoc and the Lompoc Theatre Project Corporation (LTPC) have finally come to a fork in the road that could point Lompoc’s dilapidated historic theater down a path to restored victory—eventually.

The memorandum of understanding signed by both parties during the May 6 Lompoc City Council meeting should lead to a transfer of ownership—from the Lompoc Housing Community Development Corporation to the nonprofit corporation—which is something the city has been attempting to make happen ever since the community development organization filed for bankruptcy in 2012, following the dissolution of California's redevelopment agencies.

“As you all know, this has been tried before. What we are asking you tonight is, let’s make it work,” LTPC Board President Cecilia Martner said during the May 6 meeting. “Approving this [memorandum] is really just the first step; there are tremendous challenges ahead. We have some heavy-duty lobbying to do to finally get the theater out of this nowhere land that is there right now.”

The reason the theater’s been in limbo for so long now is the tremendous debt the community development corporation left on the downtown building’s title. The LTPC doesn’t want to assume the theater’s outstanding loans if it adopts ownership.

However, the organization has managed to get one of the loans forgiven—a $175,000 loan from a local family, the Calverts, who were former owners of the theater. There are two other loans hanging over the theater, one of which the California Department of Finance needs to forgive.

Forgiveness of that debt is one of the big ifs that needs to solidify before the LTPC can take over the theater and start rehabilitating things. Katie Baillargeon, the theater project’s fundraising chair, told the Sun that the organization just opened an escrow period on the theater. During that escrow period, LTPC needs to go before an oversight committee—its next meeting is in July—and then petition the Department of Finance for approval.

Baillargeon said Isla Vista recently went through a similar process with the Department of Finance and completed a transfer of ownership on some buildings that were also stuck in limbo after redevelopment agencies across the state folded.

Once that’s completed, Baillargeon said they would be able to start their capital fundraising campaign. The goal is to raise $5 million to rehabilitate the theater and construct an annex to hold a rehearsal space and bathrooms that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

During the May 6 meeting, Councilmember Ashley Costa said the most important thing for her was that the City Council doesn’t hear a lot from the LTPC, but she sees a lot of things happening. She said that with nonprofit organizations, often times it’s the opposite. It gives her hope that this time around, everything might come together the way it should.

“I grew up in Lompoc, and I’ve never been in that theater. Maybe, one day,” Costa said.