City Beat

Sacramento City Council approves additional funds for B Street Theatre project

An architectural drawing shows a planned B Street Theatre complex at the corner of 27th Street and Capitol Avenue in midtown Sacramento.
An architectural drawing shows a planned B Street Theatre complex at the corner of 27th Street and Capitol Avenue in midtown Sacramento.

The final act of B Street Theatre’s years-long campaign to build a new performance complex in midtown Sacramento may finally be here.

The Sacramento City Council voted Tuesday night to boost its investment in the homegrown theater company with $3 million to help in the construction of a $28.85 million facility at 27th Street and Capitol Avenue.

The city had previously agreed to provide B Street with a forgivable loan worth $2.5 million. But theater directors sought an additional $500,000, and Councilman Steve Hansen – who represents midtown – made a motion to increase the public contribution to a $3 million forgivable loan. The council voted unanimously to support his request, despite advice from City Manager John Shirey to the contrary and the concerns of two council members.

“This helps fulfill a project that has been around for over decade,” Hansen said. “This is a pivotal moment for our city.”

Council members Angelique Ashby and Rick Jennings expressed the most concern with increasing the city’s donation, asking that the additional $500,000 be paid back to the city.

“B Street is not the only theater in Sacramento that needs help, nor is it the only arts component that needs help,” Ashby said. She had proposed that repayment of the extra $500,000 be delayed as long as 10 years, but sided with her colleagues after B Street officials said taking on extra debt could imperil the project.

Shirey said the extra money would “probably come out of the general fund,” the budget that pays for most core city services. The city’s original donation is coming from the sale of land it owned at Fair Oaks Boulevard and Howe Avenue.

B Street has nearly all the money for the project, including $11.5 million in financing from Umpqua Bank, $6 million worth of land donated by Sutter Health – which recently opened the nearby Sutter Medical Center – and $4.2 million in cash and donations, according to a city staff report.

Bill Blake, B Street’s managing director, said last week the company has secured a $3 million naming-rights deal for the new building. Sutter has also committed $50,000 annually for the next 10 years for the theater’s operations. Blake has said the construction project was trimmed by about $1 million.

Buck Busfield, the theater’s artistic director, told the City Council that the city’s contribution would help “put a shovel in the ground and make this dream come true.”

The new theater would include two performance spaces – a 364-seat children’s theater and a 250-seat space, allowing the theater company to serve an additional 35,000 children and families above what it does at its current space. A restaurant is also part of the plans.

A city staff report said building permits for the theater construction work should be completed within the next 45 days, allowing construction to begin early next year.

As a condition of receiving city money, B Street has agreed to hold performances at two schools in each City Council district – along with two “at-large” schools – every year for 20 years. The theater will also provide 60 discounted tickets for matinee performances each year to every council district and will allow the city to use the facility for events four times a year.

Blake also agreed to launch programs working with teens in each City Council district in exchange for the added $500,000 city contribution.

Ryan Lillis: 916-321-1085, @Ryan_Lillis

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