The Santa Clarita City Council voted 3-0 Tuesday evening to open negotiations with Laemmle Theatres and a developer partner to bring a six-screen Laemmle art house cinema and a mixed-use development project with parking to Old Town Newhall.
Council members Laurene Weste and TimBen Boydston had to recuse themselves from the discussion and vote – Weste because she lives too close to the target location across from the Newhall Library, and Boydston because he runs a competing theater business (Canyon Theatre Guild) down the street.
The theater building and adjacent mixed-use development with 46 upstairs apartments over ground-floor retail stores would be located on the vacant lot bounded by Lyons, Main, 9th and Railroad. The property is owned by the city and its defunct redevelopment agency.
Greg Laemmle, president of Laemmle Theatres, anticipates the theater in Newhall could draw between 150,000 to 200,000 to Newhall annually.
“There’s an opportunity here to jump-start the development of what will be an authentic and vibrant environment in Newhall,” Laemmle said.
The subject property.
Under separate ownership, the new theater, on 12,000 square feet of the redevelopment block, and the 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom condo or apartment units and retail space on 37,500 square feet of the redevelopment block, would be handled by the city as two separate projects.
A 300-space public parking structure would be a component of the combined project, which is expected to generate an estimated $4 million in economic activity annually in an area the city has long been trying to revitalize.
Twenty public speakers addressed the council on the topic, all in favor.
“I want to see all this money that all of us spend elsewhere back in Santa Clarita,” said Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel.
Weste, addressing her council colleagues as a private citizen, said, “Congratulations to our community for staying the course to get to this day. … We all just want dinner and a movie.”
Now the city and the developers will begin to hammer out the details of a proposal to bring the project to fruition, which would likely include some sort of financial participation on the part of the city for the theater component.
The city and its redevelopment agency purchased the two-acre block across from the new library in November 2008 with the intention of redeveloping it. Some of the property was leased; when tenants’ leases expired, the existing buildings were bulldozed to make way for a new project. A Laemmle-type theater had been in the plans for the site since 2005, along with a housing component and public parking. (Under state redevelopment law, 20 percent of redevelopment assets had to be set aside to improve the housing stock in blighted areas. The downtown area qualified.)
Then in early 2012 the Legislature and the governor canceled redevelopment throughout the state. In 2011, as redevelopment was unraveling, Santa Clarita’s redevelopment agency transferred some of its property to the city.
Today the block consists of nine parcels, some of which are owned by the city, some by the “successor agency” to the redevelopment agency, and some by the city on behalf of the housing obligation under the old redevelopment law.
In 2013, as required by state law after the termination of redevelopment, the city filed a “long-range plan” to sell off its redevelopment property.
Under the long-range plan, which the state accepted, the city said it would put the property to bid and sell it to a developer who would create a project consistent with the city’s Old Town Newhall redevelopment plan.
The city solicited bids from nearly 100 potential applicants. There were five responses. Three were tossed out because they didn’t include a theater or public parking.
The two qualifying bidders were Laemmle Theatres in partnership with Serrano Development Group/Pacific Coast Housing Development of Glendale; and Maya/HighRidge Costa.
After meetings with staff and a professional consultant and a subcommittee of Mayor Marsha McLean and Councilman Bob Kellar, the Laemmle/Serrano proposal floated to the top.