A massive building project is nearing completion in downtown Oceano.
The 14,000-square-foot, two-story structure, located at 1827 Front St., will serve as a new box office and rehearsal space for the Great American Melodrama and Vaudeville, according to a news release. The building will also house administrative offices and design shops while providing storage space for the Melodrama’s vast inventory of costumes and scenery.
According to Melodrama co-owner Lynne Schlenker, the building even has some extra commercial space that could be rented as a restaurant or retail business.
Schlenker said no businesses are currently slated to move into the space, but she said it’d be ideal for “a little coffee shop, deli (or) ice cream shop.”
Schlenker and her husband, John, founded the Melodrama as San Luis Obispo County’s first professional theater company in 1975. The theater has staged shows at 1863 Front St. since then.
The Melodrama’s theater building, a former Rexall drugstore built in the 1950s, underwent a remodel that added a lobby area, a renovated kitchen and a fresh exterior in 2011.
But the theater’s original box office, a one-time thrift store built in the late 1940s or early 1950s, remained mostly unchanged for decades.
“We patched the roof so many times that we couldn’t patch it any more,” Melodrama artistic director Dan Schultz recalled, adding that rain would sometimes trickle into the building during winter storms. “Not only was it not a safe place for our employees, it wasn’t a welcoming place for the community to come into. It was just gross.”
After the box office was demolished in March, work began on a replacement, Schultz said.
“It’s huge. It’s really big,” he said of the structure.
The new building, designed by Arroyo Grande architect Gary Madjedi and built by general contractor D.A. Craghead Construction of San Luis Obispo, combines environmentally friendly features such as roof-mounted solar panels and energy-efficient windows with a look that matches the old-timey aesthetic of the theater, Schultz said.
The surrounding area also received a facelift, Schultz said, with new sidewalks and pavement installed on neighboring streets. In addition, parking for the Melodrama has been expanded by eight spaces, he said.
Schlenker said the project cost “well over a million dollars.”
However, she said the Melodrama will see significant savings in terms of its utilities bill. The new building is expected to produce enough solar energy to power both Melodrama buildings.
And there are additional savings in store.
According to Schultz, the new building will replace rental space more than a mile away on Pike Lane used for off-site costume and scenery construction and storage. That means theater employees will no longer have to hop in the car whenever they need to fix a zipper or grab a prop, he said.
Schultz said the Melodrama could start moving into its new building by Dec. 1. But box office operations likely won’t shift to the new spot until January, he said.
The move coincides with the Melodrama’s perennially popular holiday show. The Holiday Extravaganza, which features a one-act version of “A Christmas Carol” as well as a “fractured fairytale opera” and a holiday vaudeville revue, runs Nov. 15 through Dec. 31.
Schlenker said she sees the Melodrama’s new building as a fitting part of her family’s legacy in Oceano.
“It’s colorful and it’s beautiful and attractive,” she said. “We’re really proud of it.”