At about midnight Monday, council members and the redevelopment agency decided to include the city's general fund into a financing plan for constructing a 2,000-seat regional theater in downtown Livermore. The approved plan is designed to provide surety to bondholders.
"This step starts to make it real," said Len Alexander, executive director for the Livermore Valley Performing Arts Center, which is pushing for the theater. "It is a step closer to reality — a huge step."
However, with that huge step comes a risk.
A risk, Alexander said, that is worth taking.
The redevelopment agency is paying for two-thirds of the $184 million project through tax increments it expects to receive over 30 years.
The governor's proposed state budget means there is no guarantee of those tax increments.
Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to close a $25 billion projected deficit for fiscal year 2011-12 includes shuttering all state redevelopment agencies.
"There are many unknowns at this time," City Manager Linda Barton said. "There is no written proposal for us to analyze. We are in a difficult position."
Alexander said the clock is ticking for the project and that any delays could raise costs as construction rates increase.
The cost of financing is another variable that may pose a problem for the project, he said.
"We can't have more cost than revenue," he noted.
But if all things fall into place as planned, officials may be breaking ground on the project in July, Alexander said.
Other funding for the regional theater is expected to come from waste revenues from the Altamont and Vasco Landfill, facility fees, capital fund raising and operating surpluses, according to a city staff report.
The regional theater project is part of a 2004 agreement between the redevelopment agency, the city and LVPAC to bring three performing-arts venues to Livermore.
Two projects have been completed: the on Eighth Street and the downtown.
Officials anticipate that the regional theater will feature Broadway-type shows that the much smaller Bankhead Theater cannot handle. A city staff report said a regional theater would attract visitors from throughout the Bay Area and Central Valley.
An overwhelming majority of a standing-room only crowd that attended Monday's meeting spoke in favor of the project.
It was announced that 109 people attending the meeting requested to speak on the issue. About 25 of those speakers waived their time as the night wore on.
Many said they welcome the regional theater, and are excited at the prospect of it changing the face of Livermore and pumping millions into the economy.
The regional theater is planned on the site of the former downtown Lucky Supermarket on the southeast corner of the intersection of First Street and South Livermore Avenue.
It is something Maryann Brent has been waiting a decade for.
"I came here to see history being made," she said at Monday's council meeting. "I've been waiting for this for a long time."
A second reading and analysis of the theater's financing plan are required before the project can move forward, officials said. The council is scheduled to revisit the plan and take action at its Feb. 22 meeting.
Note: Council member Doug Horner was the lone opposing vote in Monday's decision.