Jacobs Performing Arts Center
A rendering of the Jacobs Performing Arts Center. Courtesy of NTC Foundation

The NTC Foundation announced a partnership Wednesday with Old Town’s Cygnet Theatre to renovate a historic building at Liberty Station and open a performing arts center in 2024.

The foundation, which works to preserve Naval Training Center buildings in what is now Liberty Station, will work with the theater to renovate Naval Building 178 to create the Joan and Irwin Jacobs Performing Arts Center and Cygnet’s new home.

“This partnership is the exciting natural progression in Cygnet Theatre’s steady growth since our founding 20 years ago,” Sean Murray, the theater’s artistic director, said in a statement. “This new location will not only cement Cygnet’s long-term sustainability as a San Diego institution but will fill an important need for a flagship theatre destination and live performance venue in Liberty Station.

“In addition to being Cygnet Theatre’s new home, we are looking forward to opening our doors to other community performing arts organizations as an accessible space,” he said.

Groundbreaking on the $38.9 million project is scheduled for spring 2023, and the project so far is 77% funded. Plans are to restore historic elements of the building, as well as integrate two theaters and support spaces.

“Building 178 is a cornerstone of the Arts District (Liberty Station) and as it transforms into The Joan and Irwin Jacobs Performing Arts Center – – and home of Cygnet Theatre — it will be a true anchor tenant for our campus and community,” said Lisa Johnson, NTC Foundation president and CEO. “Our collaboration with Cygnet is an ideal partnership, as our organizations have blended seamlessly on this milestone project that will bring a highly- anticipated, one-of-a-kind venue to our city.”

NTC Foundation and Cygnet Theatre hope to attract 50,000 theater attendees annually.

“Joan and I are thrilled to help provide this new performing arts venue in San Diego — especially one that is both a well-conceived conversion of a historic Navy building and located adjacent to the Gary and Jerri-Ann Jacobs High-Tech High School,” philanthropist Irwin Jacobs said in a statement. “There has been a long-standing need for a live performance space for the many artistic groups and students in Liberty Station and we’re especially excited that this will provide Cygnet Theatre with a permanent home well-attuned to their needs.”

According to foundation plans, the venue will feature two theater spaces — one 289-seat proscenium theater and a 150-seat flexible studio space — as well as dressing rooms, green rooms, a costume shop, and dedicated rehearsal and orchestra spaces. Two refreshment areas, indoor and outdoor lobby spaces, and ADA accessibility are all part of the plan.

Built in 1942, Building 178 is one of 26 historic buildings under the stewardship of the NTC Foundation. Building 178 previously served as a recreation center at the former Naval Training Center, housing a bowling alley, dance club, retail, and more.

The design will remove boarded-up archways, re-establish existing enclosed arcades and colonnades and restore existing windows and doors that were previously shuttered. The project will also reconstruct the entire northern portion of the building, excluding the arcade, restoring it to its original design and allowing for the expansion of the basement floor level where the new proscenium theater will be located.

City News Service contributed to this article.


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Ellen Bullock