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The Camino Real Playhouse is asking for the community's help to possibly buy their building and ensure their future. Photo by Brian Park
The Camino Real Playhouse. Photo: File

By Allison Jarrell

City officials are seeking input from the public on four development bids for the downtown property that has been home to the Camino Real Playhouse for nearly three decades.

In order to glean that input, the city will hold a public workshop on Wednesday, April 26 at 5 p.m. at City Hall, 32400 Paseo Adelanto.

“The public is encouraged to attend and participate in this important phase of the selection process,” a press release stated. The four development concepts will be presented and residents will have an opportunity during public comment to voice their opinions. The Council will likely make the final decision during a future closed session meeting.

The city has been reviewing 11 bids for the property in closed session since January, and has since narrowed the field to four favored development proposals. The property consists of two adjacent parcels at 31776 El Camino Real and 26874 Ortega Highway.

When the state “dissolved” redevelopment agencies back in 2012, the city of San Juan Capistrano, like other agencies, was required to develop a plan to sell any agency-owned property. For San Juan, this meant selling the two downtown parcels and the Lower Rosan Ranch property off of Stonehill Drive.

Mayor Kerry Ferguson, Camino Real Playhouse management, and many community members have noted that they would like to see a performing arts center included at the site.

Below are the four proposals currently under consideration (as described by the potential buyers):

Friess Property Investments:

Redevelop the existing 11,000-square-foot structure into a special events and performing arts venue and increase the parking count to 88 stalls. The development would result in an auditorium use with a professional stage and support facilities that can be used for community performing arts, special events and musical programs. A valet configuration during special events would expand the 88-car capacity to upwards of 130 parking spaces.

Frontier Real Estate Investments, LLC:

The “Capistrano Center for the Arts” would include:

  • A new performing arts center with an auditorium seating approximately 250 people along with a secondary black box theater with 60 to 100 seats. The theater would include a scene shop, dressing rooms, classrooms, storage, lobby area, box office, refreshment area, restrooms and a dedicated loading area.
  • First class, full-service street-front restaurants and retail shops
  • An open-air plaza adjoining the theater with the restaurants and shops
  • A boutique second-story creative office space
  • Two levels of subterranean parking, comprised of approximately 250 parking stalls

O’Shea Properties:

The development proposal consists of a two-story approximately 19,500-square-foot professional office building with 78 surface parking spaces. The building would not exceed 35 feet in height and would respect the prescribed setbacks from the Blas Aguilar Adobe. The building would be one-story on the ends with a two-story portion in the middle.

Rivendell Land Company, Inc.:

The proposal entails rehabilitating the existing 11,000-square-foot building and expanding the building to 14,000 square feet to enhance the views from Ortega Highway and El Camino Real.

The building would include an approximately 1,500-square-foot farm-to-table café on the corner with outdoor seating. The remaining 12,500 square feet would be used as a performing arts center.

The parking lot would be restriped to increase the parking count to 80 stalls, with approximately 112 stalls available in valet configuration.

The proposal also includes:

  • Creating a design concept for a “community gateway project” that leads into the historic downtown, and working with Caltrans and the city to include right of way parcels for the gateway project
  • Conducting a parking demand assessment and creating parking arrangements with downtown businesses and the Mission
  • Developing a hospitality and performing arts relationship with the downtown hotels

Staff noted in the agenda report that Rivendell Land Company’s project description differs from the initial proposal the city received on Nov. 16. Owned by local developer Bill Griffith, the company initially pitched a “14,000-square-foot commercial building including an approximately 1,500-square-foot “farm to table” cafe to support ancillary hotel uses at the Plaza Banderas Hotel, and preservation of the existing surface parking lot.”

Griffith has not officially announced whether he will proceed with building the Plaza Banderas Hotel at the site across from the Mission. Last fall, Griffith dropped his Inn at the Mission hotel project at that site during the city’s review process.

To view the full workshop agenda, including summaries of each proposal, click here.

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