• Repairs to Keep Forest Theater Closed Until 2016

    The reopening of Carmel-by-the-Sea’s historic and venerated Forest Theater has been pushed back to 2016 primarily due to the expected length of preparing construction documents and the construction period, but also to make allowances for inclement weather in the spring.

    The decision to postpone the reopening was reached by the two resident theater groups this week with and concurred with by city officials.  The key theater people were Stephen Moorer, founder and executive director of the Pacific Repertory Theatre Co., and Yvonne Hildebrand-Bowen, executive director of the Forest Theater Guild.  Each organization stages shows at the Forest Theater.

    There had initially been plans to reopen on about July 24.  As revisions to the design arose, the timeline was revised to September.

    The Forest Theater was closed in April 2014 after serious structural and safety issues were found during a careful examination of the site.  City officials then reluctantly decided to immediately and completely close down the theater, which staged its first production more than 100 years ago.  No performances were held in 2014.

    “We’re really excited that the Forest Theater is finally getting the attention that it deserves and we’ve been saying since the closing that we need to get it done right,” said Moorer. “It’s sad that we have to lose another season.   It’s going to hurt our organization and others.  But in the long run it’s most important that the work at the Forest Theater is done right with the right amount of attention to detail.”

    Hildebrand-Bowen said,  “All of the theater users and community members want what’s best for the theater and community: a good safe place to have our shows and a community gathering place.  We really want it to be done right.  I’m so happy that the city is taking the steps to move forward.  I’m looking forward to seeing it open again.”

    Doug Schmitz, Carmel City Administrator, said, “While everyone involved had a desire to get the theater opened this coming summer, the additional time for plan preparation and bidding allows for more thoroughness and will prove attractive to prospective contractors, thus drawing a large numbers of good bids and reducing the number of change orders which are always expensive. We want to rebuild the theater so it withstands regular usage and the elements which come with time and age so that performances decades from now will be on the solid and lasting work undertaken in 2015.”

    “I think we’re all disappointed,” said Andy Vanderford, the city’s project manager for the work at the Forest Theater.  “The city has been pursuing a very fast-paced and compressed schedule since the theater was red-tagged.”

    However, additional changes to meet various issues, including design elements approved by the City Council earlier this month, added time to the process.

    “We decided to incorporate these changes into the design prior to going out for bid,” said Vanderford.   “These tweaks or revised drawings still have to go to the city building official for review.  Given the existing schedule, there would not have been enough time to get feedback from bidders and we believe that some would have dropped out of the bidding process.  All these issues and others were brought forth to the stakeholders Monday and it was agreed to delay the reopening. July was overly optimistic and if we have a really wet spring, you can’t pour the concrete.  Now we can take the necessary time to discuss all the details.”

    The cost for the first phase of the work was put at approximately $2 million, about 50 percent of Carmel-by-the-Sea’s capital improvement project during the current fiscal year.

    Had the city decided to pursue a compressed schedule, there would have approximately an additional $200,000 in costs for accelerated construction.

    The architect is Chris Wasney of the architectural firm Cody Andersen Wasney.

    “Everyone wanted the theater to be open as early as possible and everyone tried to do that, but when you’re confronted with an immediate closure you simply have to have the time to explore all the options and ramifications before you jump into something,” Moorer added.  “We’ve been getting community input, and looking at the artistic issues, which is important, as well as the basic necessities.”

    Also remaining closed will be the indoor theater that is used by the School of  Dramatic Arts (SoDA) and run by PacRep.

    Stakeholder Walt deFaria, president of the Forest Theater Foundation, said, “I think we’re doing the right thing.  We were trying to mash too many things together too quickly.  I’ve always felt that 2016 was when it should happen.  We’ll be able to give the public a much improved Forest Theater.”

    Stakeholder Carolyn Hardy, who represents residents, said, “It was a very compressed schedule to begin with.  Additional drawings meant extra time on the part of the architect and that would have further pushed out the bid date.  Opening in late September would have left very little of the season.”

    Moorer said that one scheduling change for this summer will be that rather than stage The Wizard of Oz at the Forest Theater, PacRep will offer a production of Oliver! at the Golden Bough, starting in mid-September.

    The Pirates of Penzance opens at the Golden Bough this weekend, January 30.  Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic opera will be on the boards for a four-week engagement.

    – Lewis Leader


    posted to Cedar Street Times on January 29, 2015

    Topics: Front PG News, Arts & Music


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