Balboa Theatre Rehabilitation

Project Overview

Located in the heart of San Diego's Gaslamp District, the historical Balboa Theatre was the city's first big downtown theater built to showcase motion pictures. The existing five-story structure with basement and 1,350-seat audience chamber has been updated to today's building standards while paying particular attention to preserving the historic fabric of the original theater. State-of-the-art audio/visual, stage rigging, theater lighting, and hoisting systems have been installed. New theater seating that replicates the original seating is located on raised tiers to allow for better viewing angles. The exterior and interior ornamental plaster and existing windows, doors, and ornamental metal railings have all been restored. A pair of live waterfalls built into the ornamental plaster walls within the audience chamber was reconditioned to working order.

Tight site constraints posed considerable challenges to renovating and expanding the 45,113-square-foot theater. Modern requirements for staging, dressing rooms, and support needed to fit entirely within the building, and limited space eliminated the possibilities of freight elevators and temporary cranes to get the job done. In response, the PCL Special Projects division made a temporary opening in the roof to install a 500-foot-by-3-foot catwalk above the existing ornamental ceiling. This small opening was easily repaired prior to completion, and the historic restoration project went on to win no fewer than a dozen awards for its spectacular results.


Centre City Development Corporation
San Diego, CA
San Diego – Buildings Construction
PCL Construction Services, Inc.
Historical Restorations, Small/Special Projects and Tenant Improvements, Sports and Entertainment
General Contracting


San Diego Historic Preservation Award - City of San Diego Historical Resources Board

People in Preservation Award - Save Our Heritage Organization (SOHO)

Merit Award for Architecture - AIA California

2008 Preservation Design Award - Preservation Foundation (CPF)

2008 Restoration Project of the Year - California Construction

2008 Performing Arts Project of the Year - California Construction

2008 Overall Top Project of the Year - California Construction

Alonzo Award - Downtown San Diego Partnership

Best of 2008 - Urban Restoration - San Diego Magazine

2008 Platinum - Reconstruction & Renovation Award - Building Design + Construction

Project of the Year - American Public Works Association

2008 Orchid Award - San Diego Architectural Foundation