SOLD! Alexandria Theater under new ownership; development moving forward

The Alexandria Theater has finally been sold. We spoke this week with Jessica Zhao, a representative for the new ownership group that purchased the aging theater property.

The sale of the Alexandria Theater, which also includes the back parking lot on 18th Avenue, closed within the last few weeks for an undisclosed amount. Zhao says the new owners are a group of professionals who were interested in the development opportunity of the project.

The purchase of the property comes with a proposed development project that has already been approved by the San Francisco Planning Department.

The proposed development consists of a small theater and commercial spaces in the main building, and a new residential apartment building on the back parking lot.

Zhao says the new owners are focused initially on getting the residential apartment development underway. Zhao and the owners are in conversations with architects, engineers and other construction resources to scope the project. They are also working closely with the Planning Department.

The future use of the main theater building, which has been the victim of blight and decay since it closed in 2004, is still being decided.

Zhao says they are “taking a hard look at what is practical” for the main building, which includes discussions with the San Francisco Neighborhood Theater Foundation (SFNTF) on the viability of having a small theater operate on the property. The SFNTF has helped save many neighborhood theaters in the city including our own Balboa Theater, the Clay Theater and Vogue Theater.

Zhao says that until that research is completed, nothing will be decided about how the commercial space will be used in the main building. When asked if the Alamo Drafthouse is still being considered as a partner, Zhao said that their first step is to consult with the SFNTF.

“We need to do more research to look at what will work best for this space,” Zhao said. “We also don’t want to have a bunch of empty storefronts there either.”

Just as ownership was changing hands, the Alexandria Theater property was hit with a notice from the Planning Department due to a violation of their Conditional Use Permit for the development.

A requirement of their approved conditional use permit was that the owners “provide strict security and regular maintenance of the parking lot site and the theatre building to prevent any vandalism of the theatre interior, and to protect its resources (i.e., architectural features and details) until such time the Project is completed as designed,’ as stated page 27, section 23 of their Planning Department Conditional Use Permit.

Zhao says that the new owners have been in frequent touch with the Planning Department to identify and rectify the issues, and that they are “going step by step to correct them”.

“We want to keep the neighborhood informed,” Zhao said in reference to the current violation as well as the future of the development project.

Zhao said that a community liaison for the development would be named at a future date, which is also a condition of the project permit. She added that the Planning Department and Supervisor’s Mar officer are “excited that we’re moving forward”.

One of the big questions the new owners will have to answer is what will happen to the main building. What would you like to see there? A theater, restaurant and some commercial retails spaces as proposed, or something else? Leave a comment to let us know.

Sarah B.

A rendering of the proposed development for the Alexandria Theater property.

A rendering of the residential units that will be built on what is now the property’s back parking lot on 18th Avenue.

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  1. One thing I want to point out is the proposed apartment in the space of the parking lot is not really a good idea. Parking is scarce in that area so I highly suggest keeping the parking lot and the details of parking spaces in the sketch is far from reality. Plus a residential complex like an apartment or condominium usually does not mix well with commercial spaces like this site. As for the space itself, I believe movie theaters are no longer effective in that area because the more technological advanced cinemas like the Metreon, Kabuki, and 1000 VanNess are just a simple bus ride away. The Richmond does not need another supermarket, as there are already 2 Safeways, a Fresh & Easy, a Grocery Outlet, Smart & Final, and a handful of small-business ones, as the same with restaurants. A music venue will not work well either due to the size here, you’ll need a place as big as the cow palace for events like these to operate successfully. A live performing theater would actually work here and so would a large church. I believe a community based venue like a rental party hall is also ideal. The Richmond still lacks a large membership gym like the 24 hour fitness. I strongly agree with some of the commenters about preserving the building, you will never be able to create another unique Egyptian style building like this again. A major renovation to the interior, some cosmetic upgrades to the exterior, and some retrofitting should not be more of an effort than to tear it down and build a brand new complex.

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