Showing 26 - 36 of 36 comments
Those who don’t live in Alameda can skip to paragraph (2).
1. Skylight Cafe— taste is subjective. The present ownership change is the second one I know of since the remodeling. When the Skylight opened after the restoration/rehabilitation it was quite good; in recent years the meals I’ve had there were up and down. I have no personal knowledge, but if I were to guess I would say the change is due to lack of business, not anything to do with the theater. I walk by there all the time and there are many empty tables; went there on a Saturday evening in June with some friends because it was on the way from where we had just been and we were one of two parties there.
2. Taste is subjective— before I get into financial stuff, I still don’t understand what Jennifer has against multiple screens. That is what people go to now. My husband and I have often thought that Park Street would look better if there were more taller buildings to go with the ones they already have. The multiplex building will improve the site— it is not out of scale, it is in scale. Look at the high school diagonally across the street, a very large building. Also, the drawing on your “stop the megaplex” site is outdated. It’s also misleading because it emphasizes the cineplex corner.
3. If you were a developer ready to sink $7.2 million into this project and the city negotiated with you for over 3 years to work out all the small financial details necessary, and then dropped you because they had a subsequent offer from Mark Haskett or a community theater group, do you think that you might be a little angry?
4. Speaking of other offers, the figure of $1.89 million from Mark Haskett was bandied about. That money would barely even cover the cost of the purchase from the present owner. Where will he get the $10 million + needed to restore the lobby, auditorium, and bathrooms that the city is doing with this project? And where would he get the balance $4-5 million to do the balcony? Let alone that 2 screens in the balcony did not work well when the theater.
5. The city is financing the construction partly through redevelopment bonds, meaning that they will be paid back with sales taxes. The more sales, the better for taxes, meaning more seats in the cineplex are better even if all other things were equal.
6. Cost of construction— affordable housing advocates are always telling me that we need to have new apartments built rather than duplexes because the less exterior walls and roofs per unit, the cheaper is construction. Does this idea somehow not apply to commercial properties? If one is going to build a new building anyway, it makes sense to build more screens and more seats in it.
7. The city won’t need eminent domain for this project.
8. PSBA has only 2 employees I believe… it would be nice if the city would put the elevations and drawing up on its Web site, but it would certainly be premature to put up an “under construction—coming soon” sign before the last vote and all property is acquired.
And my comment to keep your hands off was tongue in cheek ;–) Seriously, yes, although the financing is complicated, the additional theaters are needed because it is the only way to have the developer as a partner with the city. Contrary to the assertions of the anti- cineplex people, many attempts were made to find someone to partner with the city in this project. The city has spent over 3 years working out the financial deal with this developer. If this deal fails, no one will even attempt to work out something with the city. The historic theater is very, very deteriorated after having had very little maintenance since 1979 when it closed for movies. Anyone restoring it will need LOTS of public help. I also don’t understand the anti-multiplex feeling as having the other theaters in an adjoining building is exactly the same as with the Orinda, or Grand Lake. And there is plenty of room to have more screens next door, unlike with the Orinda or Grand Lake, so why not? Unlike the anti-cineplex people, I think the new building will be complementary to the whole area— that corner needs more height than it has and the additional storefronts will be better for walking than a surface parking lot.
Salvageman, I think you misunderstand what is to be done with the Alameda Theater. The “megaplex” actually only 6 screens is in a new building next door to the historic theater. The historic theater will be partially restored, including restoration of lobby and main auditorium light fixtures, carpeting, wall treatments and alcoves, removal of false walls and floors, restoration of the ladies and mens restrooms with the exception of where original fixtures are cracked or unusable. Not restored at this time, but could be later are two murals which were painted over, and the balcony area which could be restored later. Also, the original facade was unpainted and has since been painted— it is currently undecided how to handle the facade. Some non-original awnings will be removed, and the Alameda Theater lighting signage will be restored, but not the chaser lights (not sure why on that one). Some holes in the ceiling left by previous occupants will not be repaired and the ceiling itself will not be restored at this time, only repaired to the extent necessary for safety. All needed seismic work will be done. Chandeliers that are left will be restored (some I understand went to the Paramount’s restoration. What will be jarring for historic theater buffs is the stadium seating which will be put in the historic auditorium. It must be a separate structure on top of the original floor per the agreement. I am not happy with this myself, but the original seats burned up in a warehouse fire many years ago, so seating would have to be brought in anyway. The so-called “megaplex” will be connected to the historic theater by hallways through two existing holes and one new hole in the side of the building. Patrons will enter through the historic lobby for all screens but the historic auditorium will have the most seating and largest screen. It’s really not that different from what was done with the Grand Lake in Oakland many years ago, or the Orinda, recently— the new theaters are off to the side, not in the original building. So Salvageman, keep your hands off our historic theater fixtures; we are using everything we have left, including the original curtain and parts of the original carpet.
It is true that when the city sent our the RFP they carefully selected who they would send it to, including Landmark Theaters, because it was important to find someone who would be interested in the historic theater restoration as a theater. This was because of a huge mistake they made earlier when they did go out to the big list of shopping center developers— that resulted in the proposal of Trammel Crow, from Texas, to take over four blocks including the theater block and develop them to be like every other shopping district around— complete with a Borders in the historic theater! Not one of those shopping center developers was interested in putting a theater in the theater! The outrage over this plan is what led to the Downtown Visioning process, where most of us who participated wanted a movie theater in the theater. So why should they have sent their RFP to the same people who wanted to ruin our downtown?
Kyle Conner has stuck with the process while the other developer, Atlas, pulled out over a year ago. And I don’t know who the developer is that is to restore the Oakland Fox, but the funding situation for that project is not great— please go to the Friends of the Oakland Fox site http://www.foxoakland.org for details. And contrary to what is being said, the developer has to put in at least $7.2 million according to the DDA. Yes, go to the www.alamedadailynews.com and look at the pictures of the proposal— on the Central Avenue elevation the Alameda Theater is only shown as a corner of itself on the right, but you can clearly see the cineplex part is not as tall as even the lowest corner of the Alameda Theater. The other proposals in the past were not “blown off”; the Michaan proposal in the mid ‘90’s got quite far but broke down over the parking problem, is my recollection. There were several hearings on it. I don’t know of any other proposals that were “blown off” other than Trammel Crow, which was run out of town by citizen objections.
There is now a petition for people who support the current plans to restore the Alameda and put up a cineplex next to it for more screens, along with the parking garage. You can get to it at View link
I don’t know if it will help devildoll feel any better, but in the draft development agreement it is specified that the multiplex is supposed to be designed so that its eventual removal would not damage the historic theater at all.
Planning Board put some conditions and changes on their approval of the project, such as breaking up the large cast concrete panels on the sides, eliminating the sort of tower on the corner, changing the window treatments, etc., that may help with the overall look of the cineplex.
Also, look around Park Street. There are many really tall buildings— the Masonic Temple (JavaRama on the street level), the historic high school, City Hall itself. The project replaces an ugly former drive-in and asphalt parking lot, and the wall of the historic theater is no great view either. When it was built there was a brick commercial building next to it hiding that wall.
Just found out from the Alameda Journal yesterday that Central Cinema owner Mark Haskett is the one who is sponsoring the “stop the megaplex” Web page. This is a conflict of interest. The city is in fact investing several millions into the project. Mark Haskett apparently offered to invest $1.89 million to restore the Alameda Theater, of which only about 15% he would put up himself (the article didn’t say where the rest of his financing would come from). $1.89 million would just scratch the surface of restoring the theater and would not provide the parking needed.
Another misstatement in the comments by Jennifer V is that the new cineplex and parking garage would be the tallest building around. On the contrary, the theater complex would be built in compliance with National Trust for Historic Preservation guidelines for differentiating new construction from historic properties. One of the differentiations is that the new complex would be shorter in height than the existing historic property. There are also many very tall buildings in this area, including the Historic Alameda High School building, the gymnasium for the high school, City Hall, the Masonic Temple.
It is not fair for another theater owner to try to stop progress toward restoring the Alameda Theater just because the city was already a couple of years into negotiations with another developer when he arrived on the scene.
The balcony was used to make the theater from one screen into three in the 1970’s. In the draft development agreement, it states that the developer has the option of restoring and reopening the balcony, but is not required to as part of this agreement. The reason is money. As far as live shows, the orchestra pit will be restored, but since we have a 2000 seat theater one block away with a huge stage area, it isn’t an urgent need to have another large venue in this location.
Also, contrary to the comment made above, the artist rendering on the “stop the megaplex” site is maybe the most current drawing, but it is not what was approved by Planning Board on Tuesday. Among other things, the signage on the corner is gone, the tower on the corner is gone, there is brick on the parking garage, they have asked for different window treatments, and also for a breakup of the large cast concrete panels on the side of the parking garage, among other things.
Please review the plan for restoration of the Alameda Theater at the Alameda Planning Board Web site agenda of June 27 at View link — go to item 8A, and click on “view item.” That will give you a PDF file of 60 pages concerning the cineplex and restoration. Starting on page 25 you can see what is included in the restoration, which is substantial. There are a few things which will not be restored at this time, but through doing the seismic retrofit they will be conserved for later possible restoration. You can read how the stadium seating will be accommodated— the false floor that was put in for the roller rink will be removed and a structure will be put on top of the original floor to allow for stadium seating. The original seats to the theater were destroyed in a fire several years ago, so new seating would have to be added anyway. If the stadium seating thing turns out to be a short term fad, the structure can be removed. The lobby is in front of the auditorium. Where the holes will be made to connect to the cineplex is now on the exterior a blank wall as there used to be a building next to it, long ago torn down. I don’t want to go through all the details here— if you are interested, read the document.
The “stop the megaplex” people are now trying to get this project to move back to a three theater, inside the old theater project. Allan Michaan, who has restored several theaters including the Grand Lake in Oakland, is a resident of Alameda and tried to get a project going several years ago that would have only three or four theaters, but the whole thing broke down over lack of financing and insufficient parking. With all his experience and previous track record, it was not viable as a small project, so with all due respect to Mr. Haskell for opening the small Central Cinema (which is terrific, I love it), I don’t really think that his idea is a possibility. The cineplex is needed for the financing of the whole project, theater restoration and building the new parking garage. It is very discouraging to have these people trying to stop the whole project, so that the theater will sit there and deteriorate another 25 years. I would like design refinement of the project to make it more attractive, but to say that the Planning Board gave in to political pressure is a bit far-fetched. Many of us community members have been working hard to get the theater reopened for many years so if that is political pressure— well I would have thought it was just called “responding to public concern.”
To the comment about using the Alameda as a community theater— Alameda has a 2000+ seat community theater a block away from this one. It is called Kofman Auditorium and is where the Alameda Civic Light Opera resides in the summer. I don’t think another one is viable in this location.
I have been working to get this theater open since 1994 or thereabouts, when the 15 year non-competition clause expired. A few years ago, the city held an extensive workshop, public participation series of events on the whole Park Street business district, called the Park Street Visioning project. Through those workshops, it was found that among the participants, the renovation and reuse of the Alameda Theater AS A MOVIE HOUSE was the highest priority for revitalization of the entire district. Since that time, the city has put a lot of energy into finding someone to develop the theater. Their initial request for proposals generated exactly zero response, even though city help and some historic preservation tax credits are available. So they had to actively search high and low for a willing developer, and have been working and negotiating with the current one for about two years toward getting a viable project that would restore the theater. The project is in the “design review” process now. However, a certain group of johnny-come-lately “stop the multiplex” people are threatening to stop the whole project at this point. I don’t know if they realize that the alternative to the adjoining multiplex and parking garage is not a restoration of the Alameda Theater, but the status quo— no project, and the theater continuing to deteriorate under the current owner, who does not care about theaters and is satisfied to collect the rents from the current businesses while doing as little maintenance as possible.