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Quality of Life

Abandoned California Theatre To Become A Massive Downtown Condo Tower

A police car is parked in front of the abandoned California Theatre, June 17, 2019.
Max Rivlin-Nadler
A police car is parked in front of the abandoned California Theatre, June 17, 2019.

After years of delays and legal challenges, developers are finally ready to move forward with a condo project on the site of the California Theatre.

For almost thirty years, the California Theatre has sat abandoned, as developers and a local preservation organization have battled in court over how to salvage the landmark 1920s movie “cathedral.” Last week, the groups announced a settlement that would replace the building with the largest-ever condo tower in downtown San Diego.

While there will no longer be a theater at the site, the bottom floors of the new structure would replicate parts of the existing, historic building, inside and out.

“It is going to be a reconstruction. But it’s going to be a faithful reconstruction,” said Bruce Coons, the executive director of Save Our Heritage Organisation (SOHO). The historic preservation group had stopped an earlier plan that would have replaced the ground floors of the building with a parking garage.

VIDEO: The Abandoned California Theatre To Become A Massive Downtown Condo Tower

RELATED: The Plight Of The Historic California Theatre

Caydon Property Group, the developer of the new structure, said the façade of the building will be laser scanned and recreated. In addition, SOHO will work with them to go through the interior of the building to identify items that can be repurposed for the new building.

The mural for the “Caliente” racetrack in Tijuana, which local groups have rallied around saving, will be demolished under the new plan.

Coons says the plan is to create a replica mural. In an email, the developers said that they will be “honoring the mural in a special way on site.” Renderings of the proposed building do not feature a replica mural.

“[The mural] has a special place in the hearts of San Diegans, and represents San Diego when we had a much different situation along the border, where we freely flowed back and forth along the border,” Coons said.

The project still must be reviewed by the city’s planning commission before developers can move forward. They expect the 474-foot tower to be completed by 2023.

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