Case Study: Balboa Theatre

Scope + Structure

This project had no steering committee and more than seventy unique stakeholders who wanted the historic theatre to be all things to all people at a budget not adequate to support that vision. Our challenge as the Owner's Advocate was to understand their desires and develop a workable process that defined the project in realistic budgetary terms. We presented alternative design and construction scenarios to clarify the scope and developed a structure for stakeholder participation that ensured this project met stakeholders' ultimate expectations.


The Balboa Theatre, built in 1924 in San Diego, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996. The total renovation transformed the Balboa Theatre into a multi-purpose performing arts center for cultural, commercial, community, corporate and convention usage. The approximately 1,250 seat theatre serves as a venue for opera, ballet and off-Broadway productions.

Leadership Role

As Project Director, Rick Pfannenstiel led the team to clarify the scope as determined by the original $11 million budget. He developed a structure to work efficiently with the multiple stakeholders which clearly identified their visions. This helped stakeholders determine the resources needed to meet multiple needs and illustrated how the project would look and function at various funding levels.

To save time and money, Rick led the team through an in-depth discovery phase to mitigate issues, prior to design. He developed procurement guidelines for competitive bids for specialty packages to attract the expertise of specialty contractors for abatement and lighting. This strategic and structured approach protected the agreed upon scope of the project and ensured its high quality.

Challenges met

This project was comprised of almost 30 user groups, almost 20 technical representatives and almost 20 public representatives, each with many diverse and competing desires. There was no steering committee and there were both abatement and seismic issues to resolve. After engaging the stakeholders in structured planning sessions to identify roles and responsibilities, we created a participation matrix. This streamlined the process, so each stakeholder was heard when it was timely and appropriate. The enhanced multi-purpose performing arts center fulfilled its promise as a cultural, commercial, community and convention center which helped to revitalize downtown San Diego.

For information about the project's architect:

Westlake Reed Leskosky Click Here.

For information about the owner:

Centre City Development Corporation Click Here.

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