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The bowling alley, pictured here from the west looking east, is in serious disrepair. Photo: Eric Heinz

By Eric Heinz

For nearly two decades, one of San Clemente’s landmark buildings has sat vacant. Located in a premium ocean view lot, the Miramar Theater has been little more than an abandoned fixture at the southbound gateway to the city.

But that may be changing.

During Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, Wayne Eggleston, a former City Councilor and Mayor of San Clemente and current member of the Planning Commissioner; Frank Darras, one of the owners of the theater; and Daniel Conrardy, the architect, spoke about some of the future plans they have for the Miramar.

Marc Spizzirri, a representative of El Camino Real Estate Holdings, LLC, the company that owns the Miramar, said the company is trying to develop minimal but thorough alterations for the theater.

“This has been sitting vacant since the early 1990s, and a number of developers have drawn plans, and we’ve had some false starts,” Spizzirri said during a phone interview on Friday. “As I get continual feedback about what (the public) would like to see, we’re trying to develop the most economic plan and one that could actually work to get the building operational.”

Spizzirri’s organization bought the Miramar in 2007, but it hasn’t been altered in that time.

Eggleston said he has been working with the group that is trying to get the theater up and running again.

See plans for the Miramar here

“I’ve been trying to get the Miramar off the ball for years,” Eggleston said. “I’ve been very disappointed with City Council not doing much in North Beach. They didn’t do anything with the El Camino Real parking lot, then there’s the roundabout…there shouldn’t be any controversy about that, but there was.”

The old bowling alley, which basically needs to be scrapped and rebuilt, is planned to be a specialty food court with 10 to 12 high-end vendors, and there are plans for an outdoor eating area.

Conrardy said the plans will maintain the theater’s stage and they want to make it an “asset for the community and the north side of San Clemente.”

The theater is planned to be completely redone but without seating and will serve as an event center, according to the current plans. The group said they will try to keep the ceiling and other features intact.

Spizzirri said he’s not certain it will have to be completely rebuilt, but with modern safety standards it’s likely a lot of things will have to be upgraded.

“Times are different now (with) more restrictions from safety, seismic measurements, and our assumption is that there’s going to be a lot of shoring up in order to use it and have the same space,” Spizzirri said.

The tower will also have to be torn down and rebuilt because “it’s really a mess,” Eggleston said. Even if everything goes according to plan at the planning and permitting stages, Eggleston said it will be three to five years before anything in the theater is operational.

The bell tower of the Miramar Theater likely will have to be rebuilt, as it is in disrepair, according to the owners of the theater. Photo: Eric Heinz

The Miramar was built in 1938 and the bowling alley was constructed in 1946, according to a city of San Clemente Historic Structures Report.

Over the years, plans have come and gone before City Council and the Planning Commission. A few years ago, a title dispute cast a cloud over any plans the owners would have come up with.

The city is asking for financial details, which Eggleston said is “unprecedented.”

“We’re asking for some parking waivers and some fee waivers, but no one expected during the first meeting during the presentation that any decision would be made regarding fee waivers,” Eggleston said.

Because the building has been designated as historically significant, Eggleston said it should be eligible for parking waivers, as is noted in the city’s General Plan.

“We asked the city to approach the project with the same enthusiasm they did with the Casino and the Ole Hanson Beach Club,” Spizzirri said. All we’re doing is asking for the same thing the city has done before, and we believe the Miramar is just as significant and important. And I’m sure people are sick of looking at it just sitting there.”

The group hopes to file a formal application with the city in the coming weeks or a couple months.

City Manager James Makshanoff said it’s unclear at this time what the city’s role in the project will be. Many factors will depend on what is part of the application that is expected to be filed in the next few weeks.

“It’s just a big question because so far we’ve just talked in generalities about what the project is, and we don’t have something specific as to what kind of impact it’s going to have on that area,” Makshanoff said. “We need those to determine what requirements we’re going to have, such as parking needs. It’s just really too early to say what the city involvement is going to be until we have some more formal information. So far we’ve heard some big ideas of an event center.”

Makshanoff said other projects the city has been able to complete, such as the Ole Hanson Beach Club, have taken precedence with city efforts.

“I think between the beach club and the Miramar, both of them will go a great way to energize the North Beach area, and it would be a great focal point for that community,” Makshanoff said. “We’re excited and we look forward to working with the ownership once they present something in more formal detail to us.”


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comments (1)

  • Really hoping that they can redevelop the property. While it isn’t a blight on the neighborhood, the fact that it is in mothballs essentially, casts a blight on the over-all neighborhood.

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