May 17, 2022

Charlie Doodle

Unique Art & Entertainment

Spreckels Theatre put San Diego on the map. A new owner and entertainment group want to repeat history

3 min read

Nearly 110 years old, the storied Spreckels Theatre office building and entertainment venue at 121 Broadway is preparing for a major comeback as new ownership promises a future more synonymous with its past.

In April, after more than a year of back and forth, the historic property was officially transferred from the trust of the late Jacquelyn Littlefield to out-of-town real estate investors Taconic Capital Advisors and Triangle Capital Group. The group paid $26.5 million for the asset, according to public records.

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Now the team plans to invest untold millions in a top-to-bottom restoration of the 145,364 square-foot building, including a state-of-the-art makeover and elevated profile for the property’s 1,463-seat performance venue by way of a just-announced deal with ASM Global. ASM Global operates an assortment of arenas, stadiums and concert halls around the world. It currently runs Pechanga Arena in the Midway District.

“There’s so much happening in San Diego. Our view on San Diego is that it’s one of the top markets (in terms of) quality of life, cost of living and life science,” said Eric Sitman, who is a director at Taconic Capital Advisors. “We just have a strong belief in the long-term growth prospects of San Diego and this location is unbeatable.”

The six-story building was commissioned by sugar magnate John D. Spreckels in anticipation of the opening of the Panama Canal and the Pan American Exposition in 1915. It opened in 1912, representing one of the first attempts of “bringing the best that money could buy” to San Diego, according to the National Register of Historic Places. The building was designed by Los Angeles architect Harrison Albright, and is celebrated for its Chicago-style facade, Baroque interior and live performance acoustics.

“They were building a first-class building with a theater and with office space to be symbolic of how we saw ourselves at the time. It was a symbol of who we were, who we thought we wanted to be,” said Michael Stepner, an urban programs professor at the NewSchool of Architecture and Design, and a former city architect. “(The Spreckels Theatre building) helped put San Diego on the map.”

The Spreckels deal is Taconic’s first investment in the region. The firm aims to renovate the property with an eye toward celebrating, and building upon, its rich history. That means introducing theater amenities, including food and beverage offerings, worthy of the best headliners and creating an ambiance splashy enough for the toniest of private gatherings, said ASM Executive Vice President Chuck Steedman.

“This is just a gem of a property, a gem of a location,” Steedman said.

“I think there’s going to be a real mix of live music across all genres. … Beyond that, there’s a great opportunity for smaller family shows, there’s a great opportunity for live comedy. It’s just a great room in music parlance,” he said. “The most important thing is that (the theater) has great bones. Structurally and physically, it’s ready to get a bit little of tender love and care.”

Taconic also plans substantial upgrades to the building’s dated office spaces. The latter vision is centered around accommodating small and mid-size tenants who want to be part of a significant downtown thoroughfare that’s in the midst of transformation — thanks primarily to The Campus at Horton project next door.

If all goes as planned, the downtown relic will once again become a calling card for the city.

Alongside the redevelopment of Horton, it could change the whole character of that particular part of downtown, Stepner said.

Taconic is still finalizing the design and permitting work. The firm hopes to entertain audiences at the historic theater once again in the second half of 2022.


https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/business/growth-development/story/2021-09-16/spreckels-theatre-put-san-diego-on-the-map-a-new-owner-and-entertainment-group-want-to-repeat-history

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