By Miriam Raftery
May 16, 2012 (El Cajon )—El Cajon’s City Council will hold a public workshop on Tuesday, May 22 at 1:30 at 200 Civic Center Way to discuss whether to destroy the East County Performing Arts Center (ECPAC) and put up a hotel on the site—and if so, how to finance the proposal.
Representatives of a newly formed ECPAC Foundation that seeks to save the theater have put out a public plea for concerned citizens to turn out in support of keeping the theater.
Council has entered into a 180-day exclusive agreement with Lakeside developer Neal Arthur to come up with a proposal for razing the theaer and building a Marriott hotel on the publicly owned site.
That proposal has outraged many arts patrons, downtown business patrons and residents in the community, who contend that it’s wrong to destroy a public resource that many have donated to support through the years.
Some sugggest the plan amounts to a land grab of public property to benefit a private corporation at the expense of taxpayers.
The theater has been closed for about two years due to a roof leak and other issues. However a walk-through of the project by concerned citizens recently revealed that the theater could likely be repaired and reopened for far less cost than the council has stated in the past, when it proposed more grandiose plans that included moving the entrance to Main Street and expanding restroom areas.
The theater has not been profitable for the city, however critics contend shows were not adequately marketed and that a professional theatrical management organization should take the reins. Other proposals ranging from changing the performance mix to selling alcohol to promoting shows through social networking sites have all been suggested.
The theater has among the finest acoustics in Southern California. In its heydey, it has been home to San Diego Symphony concerts, theatrical performances and headliner celebrities, as well as community programs such as Traditions of Christmas and Christian Youth Theater programming.
Tearing it down would not necessarily be a cheaper alternative, since razing the theater would cost an estimated $2 million. Council will seek input from the public at the upcoming meeting on whether or not taxpayers should be asked to subsidize a hotel on public property.