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Visalia to sell Enchanted Playhouse theatre

Second project would build a mixed-use complex at Garden and Main  

November 8,2017

Screen Shot 2017-07-13 at 7.41.54 AMRetiring city manager Mike Olmos says the Visalia City Council has approved plans to issue an RFP offer to sell the Enchanted Playhouse theater on Main Street at Garden in Downtown Visalia.

“We are not just looking for the highest bidder but want hear plans on how they would use the theater building” that could benefit both the arts and Downtown.

Olmos, who steps down at the end of this month, says the RFP will come out in coming weeks after one local group made a unsolicited bid to take over the theater operations. Olmos said he could not comment but city agendas show promoter Mike Cavale and others have been discussing the possible purchase with the city. Cavale’s group has brought in big musical talent to Visalia over the years.

The Enchanted Playhouse Theatre Company was founded in 1992 with a mission to “enchant, surprise, excite and amuse audiences, young and old.” The live theater offers presentations of family-oriented, stage entertainment in the form of classic novels, fables and fairy tales. The organization is operated year-round by volunteer staff from throughout Tulare County, the company’s board of directors and many volunteers in the form of artists, designers, performers and technicians.

They are currently performing A Christmas Story through December 10 and a winter production of “Charlotte’s Web”  will open on February 2, 2018.

The city owns the building to help support local arts but would entertain ideas to step-up the use of the building while not conflicting with the continuing operation of the popular playhouse.

The theatre opened in 1949 as the Visalia Theatre, showing John Wayne in “She Wore A Yellow Ribbon,” its quonset hut auditorium originally seated more than 600, says one history.

Today it ranks behind the well-known Visalia Fox, four blocks away in the local imagination. But some believe it could have a bight future to come.

Offering the property in the form of a Request For Proposals allows other entities a chance to negotiate as well. In the past  few years the city has sought to sell a number of city-owned properties.

Mixed-Use Project Planned

Across the street from the theater, the City of Visalia also owns the old Razzari Ford parking lot at Main and Garden. For months now the city has been negotiating with a group to buy the lot and build a mixed-use, 2-story building on the lot. Olmos says  the development will be “upscale” and feature retail on the ground floor and multi-family residential on the upper story.He says he can not name the group as of yet but that council is reviewing the plans before it is made public.

The project is one of several that would add more residential uses in the Downtown core.

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