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Novato theater to lose storage site as part of housing plan

The Novato Theater Co., a community-led institution started 100 years ago, will have to find another warehouse to store its props, sets, lighting and wardrobes.

While the theater’s playhouse on Nave Drive is not in jeopardy, its warehouse in the Hamilton neighborhood is slated for demolition. It will make way for Homeward Bound of Marin’s project to construct apartments for homeless veterans.

Bill Weinberg, vice president of the theater company’s board, said the organization has used the abandoned building since 2012. Although the building has no power, a damaged roof and leakage problems, there are mixed feelings about the upcoming move.

“We have to move but the good thing is they are taking care of homeless vets. You can’t be opposed to that,” said Weinberg, who is also the company’s facilities manager. “Homelessness is one of the most intractable problems that any municipality faces. No one has come up with an effective way to deal with it, and Homeward Bound has been more effective than most. So we are all in favor of doing it, but it’s a shame we have to leave.”

City Manager Adam McGill said it’s unlikely the theater company will have to move this year because the Homeward Bound project lacks funding and no applications for work permits have been submitted yet.

“I’m not aware of a request to vacate,” he said.

The parcel is at 1385 N. Hamilton Parkway. In June, the city allotted $750,000 to the $10 million Homeward Bound project. Homeward Bound has secured $8 million in committed funding, said Paul Fordham, deputy executive director of Homeward Bound.

Despite the funding shortfall, Fordham said the nonprofit plans to move forward with the project. He said the construction timeline will remain unclear until the project goes through the approval process with the city in the coming months.

“We might be demolishing it and then securing the funding to build the new structure, but all that is still unclear,” he said. “But if we do the demolition first it would affect the theater, so there are no clear answers.”

The project is the first phase of a $25.4 million plan to construct 50 apartments for extremely low-income and very low-income tenants. Out of those apartments, 24 are reserved for homeless veterans and 26 for homeless people entering the job market.

He said the city has helped out the theater company by letting them use the parcel, but the warehouse is hazardous.

“The roof leaks and it’s full of toxic materials,” he said. “I acknowledge it’s an inconvenience to the Novato Theater Co., but the building in its current state is not safe.”

The buildings would be next to Homeward Bound’s Next Key and New Beginnings sites.

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