New Village Arts Theatrer on State Street, started years ago after Kristianne Kurner and her former husband Francis Gercke realized the need for a theater in Carlsbad. Photo by Ben Swanson
The Carlsbad city council approved the process of negotiating a long-term lease with New Village Arts during a meeting on Feb. 11. File photo
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New Village Arts, city agree to start talks for long-term lease

CARLSBAD — Dozens of residents came out to show their support for New Village Arts on Feb. 11. A recent city report detailing the city’s partnership with NVA revealed a potentially uncertain future at the iconic theater on State Street.

In the end, City Council approved to begin the process for negotiating a long-term lease, potentially including $250,000 in the next budget and starting discussions for a State Street Arts Specific Plan. The city owns the building in which NVA resides and NVA is seeking a 20-year agreement.

“I didn’t see it as a panic. The wording in the staff report was scary because it seemed so negative,” said NVA founder and Executive Artistic Director Kristianne Kurner. “We’ve worked so long together and have had a great relationship. This kind of idea of some of the things in the staff report took us aback.”

The panic began last week when the city unveiled its agenda and a report about the partnership, according to Alex Goodman, managing director at NVA. He and Kurner said it seemed to be a less than stellar recap of the 19-year partnership between the city and NVA.

In addition, the report also had a request for proposal, which sent shockwaves through NVA’s leadership and board of directors. However, Councilwoman Priya Bhat-Patel said the staff was given a broad and general direction of the report, which was approved and commissioned by the council in April 2019.

Still, supporters, brought their passion to the council with Bob Lin, who sits on the NVA board, saying NVA had yet to be informed about a facility improvement budget request of several hundred thousand dollars to fix leaks in the roof and the west exterior wall. The city approved the improvements three years ago.

He also requested NVA be included on city signage in the Village and for the city to approve the $250,000 budget request. Lin noted councils in Oceanside, Vista and Escondido all approve annual budget requests for their respective theaters, which range between $250,000 and $2.5 million, respectively.

Lin also said NVA is responsible for at least $550,000 in increased economic activity in the Village.

As for the lease, Kurner said NVA has been operating with the city on leases for two to three years until they signed a five-year deal last year. However, NVA is in the midst of a $1 million fundraising campaign to renovate the interior and without a long-term commitment from the city, it would be difficult to reach the goal and potentially not worth continuing with the possibility of its short-term lease not being renewed, Kurner said. Currently, NVA has raised $330,000, she added.

“You’ve proved yourself and we’re married now,” Councilman Keith Blackburn adding the theater brings so much to the Village and city.

City Manager Scott Chadwick apologized to NVA about the lack of communication and updates from the city. He said the city hired a structural engineer last month to address the roof and exterior wall and construction is expected to begin this summer.

Regarding the specific plan, Councilwoman Cori Schumacher said it was important to include, although the council did not put a timetable as a way to allow staff and NVA to discuss the outline first, among other concerns.

The council agreed NVA has been a source of pride and the hub for arts in the Village.

“We’ve had a vision for that whole area for quite some time and it’s exciting to see that the city is as interested in it as we are,” Kurner said. “I think we can make that such a vibrant area … that can be one of the liveliest areas in the Village that’s based around art.”

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