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.


  1. Do people go to theaters anymore? Something else please like a decent grocery store I can walk to? Whole foods? There are only two real grocery stores where u can shop for everything in the richmond and unfortunately that is the two safe ways (inner/outer). We need something in central! Or some other type of market like arguello market or Mollie Stones. A nice bakery? Asian market (there are only 1 or 2 asian markets out here.) I would settle for more restaurants. Something geared towards children like citikids was? Or something else that would be unique to us. I’m not sure a movie theater would really bring in a lot of business in the long run? And making it a theater/dinner place might make it fun once in a while but I would think the smartest business move would be something that people in the area would frequently go to and get some real use of space.
    In the Castro they are building all those residential spaces and they have a new whole foods right across from Safeway. If there is going to be more residential spots there needs to be more reliable grocery stores where the food isn’t all dusty and moldy.
    We moved here a year ago from inner richmond and the biggest area where central richmond is lacking is the quality of grocery stores. Or maybe even something like a Cliffs variety shop like in the Castro.
    I understand the desire to preserve the Alexandria due to historical reasons and maybe it’s just me. I’m in my 30s and me, family, friends , coworkers don’t really go out to the movies anymore. It’s like it’s somewhat of a dying past time. We do outdoorsy stuff during the day/go to cafés. Bars/ restaurants at nite. If we rarely want to go to a movie we go to Metreon. But I haven’t been to a movie theater in years. Too expensive for quality of movies out. Everyone downloads movies and watches them in comforts of their home. It’s a different age with different forms of media and I feel that area needs to progress with the times. And to evaluate needs of the people. Of course with that said there is the Castro theater but that’s a different theater on a whole other level. Not sure how big the space is and how many businesses can cram there. I hope there will be a way the public can put forth their input. But I pray to God it’s not something only a few people want and the rest of us would never use.

  2. Whole Foods?!?!, SF Hipster your commentary is emblematic of why this city is fractured like a partisan piñata in respect to the growing economic and cultural divide. The reality is, good sir of hip, that most people cannot afford to go to Whole Foods or a Molly Stones accept to purchase a few items. I am completely obfuscated as a native of SF by those in this city, but more importantly by those in this wonderful neighborhood who think that something like a Whole Foods is a good thing or even a necessary thing.

    When did we and why have we all become so damn lazy! The beautiful aspect about our part of the city is that Trader Joe’s on Masonic, Whole Foods in the Haight, New May Wah market on Clement, a number of fresh seafood markets on clement, the organic butcher on 25th and clement, Thom’s organic market on geary and 22nd, or hell if pressed there’s the Fresh and Easy on Clement and 32nd are all existing within relative proximity and offer more choices and varieties than most major American cities, let alone some places in the world! Do you have any idea how lucky we are to have such diversity of shopping so close to us? Maybe it’s because I have been riding MUNI since I was a baby, or the fact that I have been to parts of the world where being able to shop at Trader Joe’s and then depart to a place like New May Wah to discover not just new foods, but to experience a totally different cultural atmosphere is nigh impossible and for that reason totally worth getting on the 38 or just walking the neighborhood(s) to experience this wide range of opportunity. I know that I am more conscious about what I buy and I appreciate my food more knowing that I had an experience going out and procuring it from a variety of places rather than just going to as you put it a, “shop for everything.”
    Why relegate your spirit or your purchasing power to one corporate giant, when you can diversify and spread the wealth?

    That being said, I too have my reservations about filling the space with a theatre only because I appreciate the Balboa Theatre and the Four Star and would hate to see either of those great establishments suffer. Yet, I do believe there is no way to deny that new housing is needed and building new units in the lot behind the Alexandria is a smart idea as long as they preserve some form of public parking given that the units will take away that parking lot. Store fronts seem suitable and if done right and in partnership with a local entity like the SFNTF and not some major institution like the Alamo Drafthouse, a small local theatre that preserves the orginal history and works with the Balboa and Four Star Theaters would fit the neighborhood. Part of me would like to see the Theatre facade at least preserved and then use the space as a form of community center for the arts or education. Whatever is done with it, for the love all that is holy, Please do not let the fooled vision and naive insight that fouls the prop of SF Hipsterian thinking lead to the establishment of such a radix malorum as a Whole Foods in the Outer Richmond!

    Yours strangely,

    Mr. Foggy

  3. The old theater might be a good location for a business like Sports Basement which will likely eventually have to move out of the Presidio. The building would need a lot of renovation regardless of who goes in there. However losing the parking lot for the sake of condos/housing makes the use of the primary building for a significant retail tenant pretty much unlikely. My bet is that the Alexandria signage and façade are retained and likely there’ll be a coffee shop sort of where the existing entrance and lobby are and the rest of the space will be chopped up into condos. The old theater part will probably end up looking somewhat like the AMC 1000 on Van Ness, condo windows everywhere above the street level retail and retained theater façade segments.

    It would have been nice if an organization that could use the large space and retain most of the parking for their own use could have acquired the property. Some organization like the YMCA across the street would have been ideal if they had the money.

  4. Richmond Resident , I agree it would be wonderful if the likes of the YMCA could utilize that space.

  5. I’ll be interested to see what does show up. No, I’m not looking for another Whole Foods or Mollie Stone’s. And more residential area sounds good, if it isn’t just hip$ter oriented high-end apartments (do we really need that out here?). I also share a bit of a concern about the local movie theaters — the Balboa has had to work like hell to stay afloat. It’s not because people don’t go to movies, but because they’re accustomed now to going to the chain theaters downtown.

  6. I’d love to see a Chinese restaurant move in there. I think it’d be a great addition to the neighborhood!

  7. Ha ha ha Arnd.

    I like the idea of Sports Basement. I’m so sad that it’s going to have to move!

  8. Oh Mr. Foggy. You are one of those SF residents who can’t adapt to change. It’s coming. Maybe not in the form of Whole Foods but in one way or the other change is coming and you will not like it. Maybe I am part of that SF population that does like WF or some other chain like that. But it could be because I want some quality to what I buy and unfortunately a lot of the stores here don’t have that. How many times have I been to the local grocery and seen dust on packaging? Fresh and Easy is on it’s way out too. No one goes there. Where do they get their meats anyway? Gross. Talking about quality. What about Arguello Market? Why can’t we have something like that here? Decent markets. I need to get off my grocery rant. Anyway, keep the façade of the Alexandria but put something else in there instead of the movie theater. No one goes to 4 star either.

  9. LOL Arnd…. I’ve been a resident in the neighborhood for over 20 years now, and while I wouldn’t want a chain like Applebee’s or Fridays here, it would be kind of nice to have someplace with that kind of Brass rails, pub food atmosphere. I know Pig and Whistle is up at the other end of the street, but someplace closer to the Outer Richmond would be great.

  10. As a native San Franciscan, an extreme minority I’m sure, I have to say that most of you are full of it.

    Yes, oh so very young one, people do still go to the movies. I live within walking distance of the Four Star, and it wouldn’t operate today unless folks frequented it. A grocery store would be fine. Lucky’s was here and folded. The Alexandria needs to reopen, bigger and better than before. If you renovate it, they will come. I am absolutely dead-set against a ‘facade only.’ That’s a non-starter. Did this to the former Coliseum, now Walgreens, on Clement; the gorgeous Metro on Union Street; Marina Theater on Chestnut, etc. Developers love it when they’re asked to preserve. Hell, they usually insist on this since it’s not at all controversial and saves them plenty of $$$$ on their hideous mixed use crap projects. No. Once a theater, always a theater.

    You little techies and your ill-gotten $$$ have no appreciation for the more humanizing, neighborhood-friendly features of a dedicated neighborhood. I am 47 years old, hardly a senior by anyone’s definition of the term, don’t have a cell phone, cable TV, nor even a microwave, and I’m damn proud of it! Go outside more often and behold the beauty around you and try to enjoy a simpler life.

  11. There are loads of great grocery options, most within walking distance within the Central Richmond.

    I live on 20th and get my produce from Richmond Produce and can take a quickie Muni ride to the Clement St. Farmer’s Market on Sundays. I often get great meats at Royal Market. Alternately, I go to AK Meats or 6001 California Market. I buy some dry goods from Thom’s. I also get vitamins and bulk from there. There are two bakeries in 19th-21st blocks–Moscow and Tibilisi and John Campbells, They also have great, fresh-baked breads at Royal Market. You can also get cakes and sweets from First Cake on 23rd and Geary.

    I rarely drive but do so for large bulk items like TP and cat litter and I go to Safeway for these. I prefer my fish to be really fresh, so I go to Andronico’s and sometimes take the Muni to New May Wah. I have also used Safeway’s delivery when I really need to stock up on dry and bulk goods. You can often work it out so the delivery is free.

    As to what they do with the Alexandria–I am not Jonesing for another grocery store. However, I would love clothing or home goods retail (you can only get so much from Ross 🙂 ). I am just going to wait and see and hope the clean up and renovation actually begins in the next couple of months.

  12. Aaron Peskin has the Pagoda…Matt Gonzalez has the Harding…

    Doing something with the Alexandria while Eric Mar is still in office as supervisor would end the long-standing tradition of San Francisco Progressives’ love for crumbling abandoned moviehouses.

  13. Oh my dear SF Hipster,

    As the great Sam Cooke once sang, ” A change is going to come” and I am fine with that, but not in the form of unnecessary grocery chain like Whole Foods. You sadly missed the point of my contention with your perspective and it speaks to the larger derailment of your generations outlook.

    My point was, to put it kindly, get off your butt, seek out the multitude of markets that lie within the Richmond District and environs of this great city. That is what makes living in San Francisco what it is. It’s not a homogeneous puddle with a Whole Foods in every neighborhood. We have diversity, yeah it at times is not always pretty, convenient, or dust free, but we have diversity dammit and that makes this city what it is!
    My point is that you live in area where you have all these choices and who cares if you have to go a little out of your way to go to any number of markets, for the simple reason that you have them to go to at all!

    How privileged do you have to be that your major complaint is that you do not have a store like Whole Foods more centrally located to your house? I can’t tell you how many times I have walked or taken the bus home from Whole Foods or TJs or any number of local markets, stores, bodegas, shops with dust or no dust back to my house in the Outer Richmond and am happy to do so, simply because it’s an absolute first world luxury to be able to do so! Your deluded supposition comes across as, “how dare I have to travel a few blocks or go to several local markets to get quality food, this is an outrage!”
    I beseech you and this bizarre Hipsterian arithmetic that views the addition of homogeneity equates to a neighborhood that is diverse, interesting, and cultural beautiful.

    If you don’t like dust on your packaging then hop on the bus or get in a car and drive up to Trader Joe’s or go over to Whole Foods and buy your quality that you seek out so veraciously, the place does not matter, what matters is that you get off your duff and move around. A Walmart would offer you everything you needed, but do you want one of those in this space?

    I so wish the YMCA could take over this space or someone hoping to create a cultural centre for the arts that benefited the whole community if no thet city for that matter, which is in some ways what a small neighborhood theatre represents. The 4 Star my main man, is beloved and a brilliant theatre that still has a number of people who enjoy its intimate and unique character.

    Maybe what they should do is turn the old theatre into an information centre for all those who don’t know what lies around them in this rich community, where on a giant map would be listed all the grocery stores, how to get there, and a color coded ” Degree of Dusty packaging” level indicator otherwise known as the DODP level indicator so that those like SF Hipster can make a better choice given their inability to actually go for a walk to find what suites them best. 😉

    Yours Reluctantly,

    Mr. Foggy

  14. I agree that we do not need another theater my main concern is what about parking? Since they are covering that lot with more apartments I’m hoping the first level will be able to accomodate the cars visiting the center and for the new residents.

  15. Royal Market’s meat counter is pretty impressive. Not quite so amazing as Guerra’s (16th and Taraval since 1953) but good and clean. We’ve fallen in love with their Armenian spiced, ground meat (lula), marinated pork chops, and have only begun to explore everything else.

    You can put a Chinese restaurant in the Alexandria if, as part of the deal, De Place is required to reopen as a breakfast special pancake lunch place with Thai food on the side.

  16. Whole Food and Mooly Stones – that will never happen. They are considered “francises” and Eric Marr and his lackeys will not let that happen. Also, there are plenty of supermarkets in the Richmond, get on the bus or rent a car from all those junk cars that will block our parking spaces and go down to the supermarket.

    Hipster – you don’t have kids so all the stuff you recommend are not even remotely family friendly.

  17. Ben, you forgot the biggest requirement: De Place needs to show cheezy movies on video cassette while you nosh vittles.

    At Royal, I buy their whole, unseasoned chicken. I can also get them pull a whole rack of unseasoned lamb (I have my own way of making lamb). Both proteins are of high quality.

  18. Anyone who can’t complete their grocery shopping among the retail grocery and market venues that we already have in place, has a real problem. There is more grocery variety within one square mile of the Alexandria than you can throw a stick at. Get out of your Mini-Cooper and look around!

    Regarding retail in that space, *anything* but another cafe, generic Asian restaurant, or social bar! We already have more restaurants than we need in the Richmond; we certainly don’t need (or want) more after-hours drunks hobbling home at 2am, shouting out drunken obscenities as they pass by our dwellings; we don’t need yet one more coffee shop, the area is teeming with them. The latter are also bad business bets because the landlord will have to deal with vacancies when they go under (as most eventually always do).

    The Alamo Drafthouse idea might work (I somewhat contradict myself, because they serve alcoholic beverages, but they’re not a hangout bar) – for those who haven’t had that experience, it’s a good one – social, good food, entertainment, and camaraderie. It’s a fantastic entertainment theme, and sustainable as well. The Drafthouse model is an innovative one. Take a look

    About change in the neighborhood: I’m a boomer; I love the Richmond District in all its funkiness and cultural/subcultural variety. That said, there are parts of the District that are getting very old in the tooth, with many commercial landlords sitting on their property and letting them go into pathetic disrepair; they are deferring maintenance to a point where their properties are a drag on retail dynamism. This is also true of many residential landlords.

    It hurts to admit that middle class families are now officially priced out of San Francisco, including the Richmond. Unless one is part of 1) a two-income professional family; 2) has inherited property; or, 3) has been able to procure long-term rental control space, one is priced out of this city. Just the other day – out of curiosity – I called on a 3 bedroom flat rental on 15th Ave. The landlady quoted $4500.00. I know the house well, having once lived two doors away. So, lots of locals (as well as pure real estate investors) who own property are helping to drive up the cost of shelter to a point where an entirely different demographic will populate the Richmond within the next 15-20 years. It’s going to be more upper-middle-class, with different retail and other disposable income priorities than we see exhibited by Richmond residents, currently.

    If I owned the Alexandria, I would be looking to ease into catering the coming retail demographic – or somehow achieving a balance between what’s already here (in terms of shopping preferences) and the up-and-coming newcomers. For instance: Stein’s (on Clement); Healthy Spirits (on Clement); HeartBaker (on Clement) etc. etc. – these are the kinds of retail that have near-long-term promise in the Richmond, and throughout the city, as our city reboots to an upper-middle-class haven. One thing that might fly is a serious bakery, similar to the sadly-closed Il Fornaio bakery that operated some years ago in Cow Hollow, or something like an Acme Bread, or Arizmendi on 9th.

    An Apple store would be nice, but I don’t see the Richmond District pitched (yet) as upscale enough to attract interest from Apple.

  19. SFhipster – where are you from originally?

    I think if they are going to build housing, they should consider building senior citizen housing. At least they could secure living space for the elderly that are getting evicted from their homes.

  20. I like the idea of the Alexandra theater. As for more Chinese Grocery stores, or restaurants, Please, they are all over Geary, and anyone can walk to Clement Street for Chinese Grocery. Maybe a trader Joe’s? Maybe a Bakery. But if the Theater came back , i for one would go to see movies. No clothing retailers, please if you need to shop for clothes, why go there? A nice pub would be nice. Do we really need another restaurant ?

  21. @SF Native

    I don’t think we need any more senior housing, we’ve got plenty of that over in the Inner Richmond it’s called the Columbarium. Once they move in they never move out.

  22. @ Richmond Resident
    Your comment and seemingly explicit disdain for the elderly population may qualify you as a proponent of the Ellis Act. Given your other comments, it also seems to me that you like alcohol. Well. Good luck in your old age. At least you have a sense of humor.

  23. What about a venue for live music or theater, or burlesque shows? Or re-locate the Lusty Lady.

  24. I live a block away from the Theater, their parking lot is literally the view of my back windows. I enjoy the fact that it is only a parking lot behind me and not a large building obscuring my view while also limiting my privacy with viewable neighbors.

    Aside from all that, I wish that the Alexandria building and the corner it resides on be cleaned up and used for a greater purpose. I would enjoy condos or family housing instead of the parking lot only because I would actually consider buying a new residential unit if it was priced reasonably between $750k-$1m.

    The idea of a renovated theater would be fun for a night out, but I question how often someone like me in my 30s, without kids, would actually take advantage of the theater. Balboa theater is in walking distance and I have never been there. I always end up going to AMC Van Ness, the Metreon, or the Kabuki. I would enjoy more modern shops like shoe stores or boutique clothing stores.

    I would not enjoy a grocery store (we have options already) or more restaurants. We either need good retail shopping or a place for things-to-do, like a pool hall, bowling alley, swimming pool, indoor rock climbing. What we don’t need are restaurants or theaters that will only cannabalize other already existing local businesses.

    Don’t forget we need the additional parking to accomodate these plans!

    -kevin, your neighbor

  25. Hipster SF is more like Slicker SF. Mr. Foggy nailed it. As a fellow SF native (GWHS) I would hate to see more chain stores destroying local character and pricing out the working class. I just moved back to the hood to get away from the Google buses and the mindless drones that ride them.

  26. This sounds like very good news. I am cautiously optimistic because the major issue for me is how long all the research and decision making is going to take. As to what use to put the main building to – I personally cannot see a grocery or a Chinese or any other restaurant there at all. A small movie theater, sure, but better yet a live theater or mixed use. There has been quite a revival of small theaters in SF lately, it could be nice to have one in our neck of the woods. Play or a concert – could give us and the visitors something to do in the evenings other than going out to a restaurant or to drink.

  27. I think the Alamo Drafthouse is a great idea. And for SFHipster’s information, plenty of people *do* go see movies at the 4 Star. I know because I’m one of them. And it was always fun to go to a movie at the Alexandria or the Coronet. I definitely miss having that amount of movie selection in walking distance.

  28. Mixed use: Retail and / performance space (includes Alamo Drafthouse or equivalent) on the bottom to generate revenue and jobs, rental housing or reasonably priced buyable housing on remainder of property.

  29. Flax will have to be moving out of their Market Street location. How about getting an art supply store back in the neighborhood?

  30. Don’t forget to consult with the YMCA next door, as well

  31. There’s a Whole Foods at the end of the Haight, not that far away. Laurel Village isn’t too far away if you want a yuppie food experience as well. I regularly shop at CalMart and Bryan’s there. I’m not immune to the lure of a good grocery and butcher. Plenty of good produce shops already on Geary. I’ve been living in this hood since the Reagan administration. I miss the old theater. Getting folks out of the house to see a movie helps the local restaurants, ice cream shops and stores as well by creating foot traffic. I’ll welcome back the Alexandra Theater. Funniest comment on the thread is the need for more Chinese restaurants in the hood!

  32. Having worked membership and administration at a YMCA in another city, it is doubtful they could afford a space in the renovated Alexandria. They receive funds from memberships, afterschool programs, and other class and program fees. They also receive funds through donations. These latter funds are often allocated to assist those who cannot afford afterschool/summer camp for their children. Low-cost membership are also provided through these donated funds. For our Y, it would take large and on-going fundraisers to afford a new space. My guess, they either own the current building, or have a locked-in rent in their current building. I am also a member of the Richmond Y.

  33. A nice, fully restored Alexandria Theatre that shows old films would be better than the Castro. That’s what our neighborhood lacks and exactly what we need. What a boon for business and huge magnet it would be for all the right reasons.

    Anything else would be a complete waste.

  34. 24 hour fitness super sport with a jamba juice would be nice. The closest 24 hour fitness is all the way down on Van Ness Ave or North Point.

  35. @SFhipster is a relatively young transplant with little to no perspective on anything that was here before he arrived. He may well work out of the city, or maybe in SOMA, so he doesn’t have/take the time to actually walk around this neighborhood. Many of the things he claims are missing here are, in fact, here–as other posters have pointed out. Of course, if he requires a Whole Foods to be happily fed, he can simply get to one of the WFs already in the city. As for @kevin’s comment that he’d be inclined to buy a “a new residential unit if it was priced reasonably between $750k-$1m”. Hmmm, reasonably is in the pocket of the beholder, eh?

  36. Why do I have the sinking feeling the finished product is not going to resemble anything like the drawings? Transbay Center anyone?

  37. @sam fuller and @jack – exactly what I was thinking. It’d be an amazing gift to the neighborhood to have our theater back!!!!

    As for street level – maybe the video cafe can return? A solid all night diner would be amazing to film geek in.

    The movie houses of yesteryear are true treasures they won’t ever build again.

    To promote a walkable city we need venues people can go out to that are walking distance. And this city has a terrific cinema scene.

  38. One should remember why the Alexandria was closed. It is not because it was losing money. It is because UA figured out that they could make more money by forcing people to go down to Van Ness to its Multi-Plex. Better to pay one ticket taker for 6 movie screens that one to take tickets for 3.

    The new owners will convince the city that they need to build the housing first and then figure out what to do with the theater. They are simply to telling the truth. They want to tear it down or just leave the façade, but do not have the honor to just say so. It is a strategic lie.

    If the public, via its planning process, thinks that the building should be saved in its entirety and it should have some kind of theater (albeit smaller) in the space then the project should be considered in its entirety. If the public does not care then tear it down.

    Just save us all from the “theater” of the Theater.


  39. Mr. Foggy and some other passive aggressive posters here: you really need to learn how to communicate with your neighbors. We are all part of the same community, so let’s communicate with eachother that way. As easy as it is to pick on a hipster, he/she is living in your neighborhood, so maybe help her understand your point without name calling and putting him/her down?

    To be honest, I’ve been living here for 2 years, and Aside from a lack of good grocery options, restaurants, or a theater, what this neighborhood really lacks is a sense of “community”.

    I’ve lived in 4 districts (mission, soma, north beach, outer richmond), and the richmond, while having its unique characteristics, is by far the least friendly.

    That’s something that we need to work on. And it starts with you.

  40. No to Whole Foods, yes to more locally-owned markets like El Grande or the one at the corner of 25th and Clement or the one at the corner of California and 22nd. Or perhaps Haight Street Produce could open up a branch …

    Now the next thing I am going to say will in all likelihood not be popular: the project has too much car parking and not enough bicycle parking. It’s just reality. Climate change is here and we need to embrace lowering our carbon footprints by creating housing without parking and that cultivates incentives for people to take mass transit and/or bike.

  41. Build it and they will come!! I’m a fifth-gen SF native and Richmond resident – time to move forward with this – Let’s build: 1) A real gym – 24hr fitness or SF Fitness – YMCA is too small and expensive and the nearest gyms are too far away, 2) Alamo Drafthouse -yes!, 3) Trader Joe’s or, 4) an indy theater with cocktails…with the Geary BRT coming, we should think big…there’s a lot more young folks and young families right now that I can ever remember and we should plan accordingly…and yes, let’s all get along here!

  42. This neighborhood doesn’t need another theater. A majority of the community members probably don’t even watch movies. We can just trek down to balboa if anything. What we really need is a gym! Gym and a Jamba Juice!

  43. A rock climbing/fitness center would be awesome!

    But honestly, I would prefer many of the suggestions (gym, cinema, bistro, housing, grocery store but not parking lot) as long as its not empty and collecting trash, graffiti, and being a site for sore eyes.

    I do not understand why being born/raised in the city or living here X amount of years makes anyone more entitled (to their opinions or right to live here)…We are all neighbors living in the city and obviously concerned enough to want to improve the situation.

  44. Dear Jingle,

    I appreciate your plea for bonhomie and the fact that you jingle all the way and not just most of the way, that is quit impressive.

    However, seeing as you have called me out directly I feel obliged to mention that I never called SFHipster by any name other than his/her own self ascribed moniker and any sense of ad hominem viewed by you as made by I is in itself fallacious. My words were not directed at the person as you seem to think, but rather at the cultural mores or as I referred to it the “Hipsterian ideology” that forms the foundation from which someone might suggest as this person did here that the space for the historic Alexandria Theatre would be best utilized as a “grocery store in the form of a Whole Foods or the like, because, and this is the most riveting part of this persons logic, because there are no convenient grocery stores that meets this persons quality of food and well dusted standards in the Outer Richmond. This is a logic that unfortunately is prevalent in this city as things change and representative of the shock waves of an economic and cultural quake that is fracturing this city and the very sense of community you call for. It is not a matter of educating Jingle, this is diametric opposition in respect to the ways of seeing life, or in this case the Outer Richmond District, wherein one side sees opportunities everywhere even if it comes with a little dust and wants to see the community progress within a harmonious trajectory, while the other side does not understand and are unaware of the history or the community they find themselves in and lack tact and diplomacy.

    Let’s be clear, my posts are agressive agressive, and goes straight to the heart of the matter, the root of the shoot!
    My distaste for SFHipsters post speaks directly to what you say we lack here in the Outer Richmond, a “sense of community.” My posts on this issue have been to communicate from the perspective of an SF native that SF as a community, all City Districts as communities, are Communities that value diversity and the reality that we have the 1st world luxury of going to all these great shops or opportunities not in the next town, county, but within mere blocks or short bus/car ride away from each other, and for this I feel as do many people who have responded to this post feel deeply appreciative of this fact and are not offended as SF Hipsters reasoning suggests that they actually have to get out and move around the neighborhood(s) to satisfy whatever it may be that they are trying to get.

    In fact, it was my argument against SF Hipster and those of his/her ilk should get outside of this odd mentality that needs everything to be convenient or shiny or new and experience the community. From what I glean, SFHipster has made it clear that he/she has sampled the community of the Outer Richmond and found it wanting and too dusty and would like something from outside of the community to come into a building that once housed a symbol of this community, a gathering place of the arts for this community if you will, and supplant it with something unnecessary and the antithesis of Community!

    Your diagnosis is flawed, and this community is very much alive and healthy! We deeply care for each other and the state of the community that is why we take offense when someone says that no one goes to the 4 Star Theatre any more or that the grocery stores in the area are inadequate!

    I suggested that I would like to see the YMCA (an entity of the community) acquire the space, but as some have mentioned that is probably a long shot. More realistically I suggested that the space be utilized as a community center for the arts or a performance space. In fact, a small neighborhood run theatre might accomplish just what I posit as an option, either way it would allow the community to bond further!

    Jingle, you say I do not speak of or for community, but In the end, all of this is done on community website about an issue concerning the community and my remarks are not empty tropes or ad hominem attacks, but heart felt calculated missives to aggressively identify and underscore skewed logic and the discursive thought of the unaware and the uninitiated that leads the community away from community.

    Yours Communally,

    Mr. Foggy

  45. Jingle and Alvin have valid points. It happens frequently within this forum, rather than talking about the issues, comments are often directed to posters–questioning if they have a right to an opinion or assessments about character are made.

    Our neighborhood is made up of new residents, life-long and long-time, and those that have lived here for a few years. We are young, middle-aged, and seniors. We are from California, other states, and other nations. We all have different lifestyles.

    All opinions and suggestions on what may or may not improve our amazing District are valid. We are going to agree and disagree. Let’s have civilized debate and instead of assuming someone’s character, how about we offer assistance, e.g., the locations of great grocery stores in our neighborhood. It is up to them to explore these suggestions.

  46. Why do the drawings of proposed developments always show so many empty parking spaces on the street? A lot of wishful thinking going on.

  47. Looks like either comments are being “approved” aka censored or my comm=ent just got lost in the void.

    @ Jingle, Mr. Foggy said everything I had wrote but nicer. You are a blight on this city and to either naively or arrogantly dismiss our community, our businesses and our cultures is an insult and quite honestly a declaration of war. I am another 3rd Gen SF native, from the 94121 and your lack of cultural acceptance is shocking. Why did you move to the Richmond of SF for that matter? For a Whole Foods and a Walgreen’s?! The word “supplant” is one Mr.Foggy used and I often do as well. The idea that there is only a community if you supplant your tastes and values on an existing community is what Europeans did to the native people of this country. It was later called “manifest destiny” and you should look it up. It is blatant racism and it destroys entire communities; the same community you claim to want to see nurtured. Wake up.

  48. I think movie theater would be best. That’s what neighborhood need. I remember beautiful Alexandria and love to see movies there.

    Movie theater should stay movie theater. That is what building is designed to be. Should landmark inside and outside in entirety. No different use of building.

  49. @nativegirl & @Mr Foggy – if that space became a movie theater/performance space it would be amazing.

    We do not need a sports basement – there’s the one in Soma if the Presido one closes.

    But historic theaters with glorious interiors will never ever be built again. Why not preserve the one we have as a community space?

    Cinema is part of the cultural scene of an urban environment – like the Opera and Ballet and the wonderful independent bookstores we have. Local markets like those on Clement. I love the SF supports small business and I love the variety. If I wanted a whole foods on every corner or a sports basement or whatever I’d live in the suburbs.

  50. It’s all fine and admirable that everyone wants a historic theater to remain in the Richmond, but once that thing opens and operates as a business, will they profit enough to stay open? It would be nice to have a landmark theater but it still needs to make money to stay afloat unless the city provides it tax exemptions or subsidized funding to operate.

    Why did it go under in the first place?

  51. @kevin good points. When the Alexandria closed the cinema scene in SF and nationally was still figuring out how to survive post-netflix. In the meantime, many theaters have come up with programing that gets people out and to the movies. For example – the castro theater’s sing-a-longs, classic screenings, kids days. The Alamo Drafthouse is a brilliant example as well.

    If they can also offer live performances that would be an additional income stream.

    Also, since there are other tenants bringing income into the building via the proposed condos and storefronts, that will help offset the costs. Whereas before the theater had no other income flows aside from the theater itself.

    Lastly, I believe the previous owners did in fact have some special treatments. not sure if they were tax breaks or what but there was some incentives offered for them to develop the property. I’m also not sure how these will carry over to the new owners. But I know part of the reason the city was able to pressure the past owners into cleaning up the property was because they had gotten some perks.

  52. With the Drafthouse people moving into the New Mission Theatre soon they can do the same at the Alex Theatre. Do what the Castro Theatre does not do. I can tell you the New Mission Theatre is not going to be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays like the Nassers run the tired Castro Theatre with It’s bad sound old carpets and paint pealing from the ceiling. Bring some entertainment back to Geary St.. Please not a store or food market. Time for the neon to glow again, put in a huge curved screen kick ass stereo system, show classics and live entertainment, the people will come out for something they don’t get at home.

  53. I think this beautiful space would make a magnificent performance space for all the incredible talent we have in the Richmond and beyond. It could be a showplace for music, dance, theater, poetry readings, and the like. Perhaps the space could be shared with galleries and other shops selling unique creations. I’d much prefer that to a Sports Basement. What a waste of a magnificent piece of architecture that would be. Let’s look at this building with a creative and loving eye, and come up with ideas that will revive a magnificent structure and revitalize Geary Boulevard.

  54. Not a poetry art place. Geez. There’s a lot of that all over the city. Little art studios here and there that close up shop. There is prob only a small percent that would use that. Can’t you do arts dance poetry at the rec. center? Sounds all nice and romantic. But I’m sure whoever bought this will be thinking about some sort of profit. Turn it into some arts dance place and you will see it close again.
    Likely and realistically will be some sort of dinner movie thing then small shops. But there are vacant spaces already on Geary. So there needs to be someone willing to pay rent.
    I would like to see more things that can involve children/families. Like a swimming pool or food/bowling alley or skating. Activities that a range of people would enjoy. Arts isn’t for everyone.

  55. We need something to represent and bring the community together. A theater and some condos do nothing for a community. We need better ideas than this. This will not benefit the community.

    We need better representation than what we have now.

  56. Do with it what they did with the Fox Oakland – convert it into a concert venue and bring something different to the night life and art scene on the western side of SF. And, if that’s too much to ask, at least save the facade and marquee.

  57. Maybe it will become batting cages like every other vacant building in the district. Who knew that there was such a demand?

  58. Tear it down, build affordable housing. It’s abundantly clear that everyone who has commented in this thread is unconcerned about the housing crisis. If you’re so interested in the arts, make it affordable housing for artists.

  59. There is no such thing as ‘affordable housing.’ That’s a relative term, relatively speaking, and means different things to different folks. No deal.

    Once a grand theater, always a grand theater. Renovate, restore, and reimagine, and the patrons will come!

    First program: Harold Lloyd and Mabel Normand followed by a Herbert Marshall film festival. Now That’s Entertainment!

  60. Just noticed some scaffolds along the theater this morning. Looks like the fascade is going to start getting a make-over.

  61. As I passed by the Alexandria at 9 am this morning (Friday 7/18/14) I saw some scaffolding up (partial) on both the Geary and 18th Ave sides. One of the front doors to the theater was open and a couple of workmen were passing in and out. Couldn’t tell what they were up to but it’s probably a good sign that someone is actively working on the building.

  62. Maybe they can turn it into a huge food court filled with thai, chinese, dimsum, hotpot, sushi and bubble tea!
    I cannot wait to move out of the richmond at the end of my lease.
    Tired of it.

  63. haha sickoftherichmond – I agree, something different please. no more hotpot places, dimsum, or chinese restaurants.

  64. I love going to the movies. But the Balboa and 4-star already serve well. And I have to say when we see movies there the theaters are rarely even half full. So – while I love going out for movies, I wonder if there’s really enough of a market left for another big theater. That said – if it is going to remain a theater I’d be happy with that.

    I like a lot of the other ideas too. Let’s all agree that almost anything would be better than the blighted eyesore that is there right now.

    I agree that we probably don’t need another cafe or asian restaurant (no offense to cafes or asian restaurants ;). A gym would be great. A good quality market would be great. A theater would be great. Housing would be great.

    Some grumpy old-timers on these boards today. 😉

  65. What about a community market, a place to share, to bring the community together. Like an open market where people trade and sell their craft, food, ideas, etc.

    I doubt they have that vision, but we need something to unit the community. A central location is essential to any community across the world.

    If you look at the future of our society, we need centrality, not commodification or condos or theaters, but somewhere for people to intermingle.

  66. Right – I forgot about Bubble Tea. We do need more Bubble Tea.

  67. The latest building permit for 5400 Geary with the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection shows: 7/15/2014 – 201407151354 – “INSTALL 8′-0″ TALL IRON FENCE AND GAET AT MAIN ENTRANCE TO COMPLY WITH PLANNING DEPT. NOV. #12744”.

    So maybe we’re getting all excited over not too much activity.

  68. I too, am an SF native (3rd gen./Alamo, Presidio, Lowell [Sorry – it’s true]) – and agree with Mr.s Foggy, Hazbeen, etc. –

    We do NOT need another big-chain-franchise-schmanchize anything in the Inner or Outer Richmond. The Alexandria building is a historical landmark, and unless vandals have completely ruined it structurally, it could still lend itself beautifully to multi-use – i.e. Stores on the first floor, restaurant and theatre/club space (which could easily be designed to support BOTH live performance and movie screenings), and residential space in the rear (north end). And no, we don’t need another gym. The YMCA is gym/community center/ childcare/ after-school and provides a huge service to this neighborhood – and to the entire RANGE of the demographic here. It is everything a 24-Hour Fitness or climbing gym is not, i.e. invested in the community where it does business.

    A friend of mine from Baltimore recently pointed out that people moving here now expect SF to the suburbs they just left – complete with acres of space for their SUVs, shopping malls with food courts, and a homogenous population. Well, S.F. will never be that. We are a in a diverse CITY folks. The last time there were suburbs in S.F. was prior to 1925, when the Outer Richmond was still primarily sand-dunes. We will never be – say – Pleasanton. There is only so much space in 49 square miles, and we won’t be razing/rebuilding to burb-specification anytime soon. One of the joys of living in a diverse and densely populated urban environment, is that we can WALK, BIKE or TAKE THE BUS to most of the places that support our lives.
    Why not learn to love this place for what it is, rather than trying to turn it into something it is not?

    For all the newly arrived – Welcome to the City of San Francisco. Hopefully you will want to invest in the well-being of our amazing city. However, if you do not, then please, feel free to explore life outside S.F. There is far more room and available rental space outside the 415. Say – in Tracy. Or Modesto.

  69. The true natives are the Ohlone. So please everyone relax with the SF “native” crap. And calling others “newly arrived”. Real
    Technically the Spanish came here took the land from the native Ohlone, and CHANGED it. Then immigrants from different parts of the world came over, and took in the fruits of a land that was stolen. And they CHANGED different parts of the city.
    You are no more entitled than anyone else. So don’t tell others to move out if they don’t agree with your vision of the Richmond.

  70. As a native San Franciscan, I say once a theater, always a theater.

    For the fellow who suggested the Herbert Marshall film festival, the first exciting and innovative comment that I’ve read here. Let’s give the Castro a run for their money and have something truly majestic on this side of the city. Bring on Harry Langdon next!

  71. Is everyone here 80 years old? Get real people. You all sound delusional with your non lucrative out of touch ideas. Someone purchased this theatre as an investment, not to open a ballet, opera, or Herbert marshal festival venue.

  72. @anthony
    I’m not 80 years old. And seeing the positive changes that happened around the fox theater and paramount theater in Oakland makes the idea of reopening the alexandria as a movie theater/performance seem quite appealing.

  73. Thank you, Sharon. I quite agree. What is sorely lacking is entertainment; that is what always gets replaced by housing–low-income or market rate–or more chain businesses. I quite like the idea of a vintage film festival. Count me in, and I must be over the hill. I am all of age 36–44 years to go!

  74. The new owners are going through the motions. Keeping it a theater will not maximize their investment.

    A theater will not work. We already have two theaters in the Richmond and don’t need a third. I full expect it to be a mixed use retail. Time will tell what it will be used for.

  75. Not sure what I’d like to see there, but NOT a Whole Foods ferglobsakes! Just putting it out there–I go to Balboa and 4 Star ALL the time, so yes SF Hipster, people do still go to the movies. And doing it in my hood? A big plus.

  76. Imagine the great joint film festivals the 4 star/balboa/Alexandria could have?

    I think @sfhipster is a little confused what the term “hipster” means.

  77. I completely disagree with Franz. There was a time when we had the Coronet, Alexandria, Four Star, Coliseum, Bridge, and Balboa all within a stone’s pace from each other. The times have not changed. Folks still go to the movies; I know, because Hollywood still makes them a plenty.

    The theaters that are no more were usually bought out by greedy landlords who wanted to generate unseemly $$$$$ from those properties. What we need is a great classic venue similar to the Castro but on THIS SIDE of the city. It would do spectacularly. The Alexandria is the last small movie palace that would allow for that. So I say, renovate and bring this old girl back in all her former glory.

    Hark! Is that the melody of sweet Jeanette MacDonald I hear serenading Nelson Eddy in the background?

  78. Get with the times people, there are other theaters in walking distance. We don’t need another theater. 4 Star and Balboa theaters are nearby. Kabuki and AMC VanNess is only a 38 bus away. We need better retail shopping. And I’m not talking about a lamp store, kitchen appliances, RadioShack, or Ross. We need some more interesting retail shopping that would bring people out of their homes and from other neighborhoods.

    Ain’t nobody got time for a movie anymore, not as often as you would think anyways! People love their Netflix and online streaming of movies. Make it something that would generate more visitors!!

  79. @kevin make a trip out to the east bay and see how the renovated fox theater has breathed life into downtown Oakland – theaters can and do being visitors to the neighborhood.

  80. At the end of the day, we need to remember, the new owners purchased this property as an investment and tax deduction; this massive plot of land is not going to used for charity, religious or cultural purposes.

    Has anyone seen the proposed costs to restore the Alexandria to a new theater? And assuming the new owners actually intend to operate a theater, what type? Independent or first run mainstream films? I won’t debate which option will generate greater revenue, my concern involves if it is even financially viable to explore a theater or perhaps, focus on alternative uses. Also, the parking concern needs to be resolved too. If I had any actual say, I would prefer more housing, namely condos, but parking must be built into the foundations of the structures. Ultimately, only the owners know how they envision this investment will develop, the rest of us can just watch and patiently wait.

  81. I agree Cha Sao Bao – the theater would have to be profitable, I just don’t believe a movie theater is that profitable. The majority of theater profits come from concessions not the tickets themselves, so I have a hard time believing they would come out on top over time. They paid good money to invest in the Alexandria. I’m hoping for a renovated building where the fascade is intact but the interior redone with shops and the back lot with condos and lower level parking.

  82. I think the Alexandria would be a great home for the George Lucas memorobilia museum, with monthly Storm Trooper parades, noontime cowboy shootouts utilizing all our vacant storefronts, and American Graffitti contests (literal and figurative). Once a year the parking lot could host a less scenic version of Jimmy’s Old Car Picnic.

  83. LOL Ben P, please do not become an investment advisor anytime soon.

  84. A theater! Please keep a theater there! The Richmond is such a dead zone… It needs life again!

  85. The theater is part of the heritage of the neighborhood. It’s shocking how casual everyone is to accept any scenario that doesn’t preserve our shared history.

    Of course an abandoned relic adds to blight but so does hastily accepted poor planning.

  86. Interesting Franz, your link indicates the present approval is for 37 residential units while the author’s calculation states it is economically feasible at purchase price with 75 units. Will have to see whether the new PRC owners submit amended plans to the City Family and its ho pung yao.

  87. Some of the scaffolding has been removed from the theater. The sides of the building are now re-painted and looking quite nice, definitely refreshing, can’t wait till they finish off the middle section where the sign resides!

  88. @Franz @4thGenRichmond – Keep in mind that article in The Registry SF interviews the sellers and not the new buyers/investors. So their theory on the new owners choosing to put more residential units in is purely speculation at this point. We’ve asked Jessica Zhao to comment but have not heard back yet.

    Sarah B.

  89. More info in the Richmond Review. City Planning says “it is optional whether the new owners proceed with this [existing] plan or come up with one of their own and submit it for approval…” Zhao says “…all options are now back on the table.” Time will tell, as will keeping an eye on Planning Commission activities.

  90. I love the idea of a beautiful, restored, vintage theater. That is ALL that makes any sense. This beautiful landmark needs to be restored to all her former glory and luster. I for one don’t give a rat’s behind about Netfilx or that other garbage. I will spend my $$ locally and for great entertainment.

    San Francisco made one egregious error; it should have landmarked the remaining neighborhood theater–all of them–in their entirety [inside and outside]. These are majestic, gorgeous film temples which will never come along again. If the new owner wants to play ball and get with restoration, wonderful. Otherwise, sell and move on. The Alexandria was built to show films; that’s its only purpose. Trying to make it anything else is like trying to get a deer to become a carnivore. It’s going against nature. As for keeping the facade, that’s guaranteed. Every developer loves that idea, if only because it gets them off the hook of tearing down that, which adds to costs. That is a throwaway and is worthless. The facade alone does not a vintage theater make. No cigar.

    As for programming: I like the ideas of a Herbert Marshall film festival followed by Harry Langdon. I’ll add to the venue by suggesting Robert Taylor and Mabel Normand, separately, of course!

  91. @Dagmar,

    That sounds great if it would be profitable. I would like to see classic movies and newer movies in a local theater nearby but at the same time, I just don’t see a one screen movie theater being all that profitable. The retail and condos might balance that out, but as an investor, I would want the entire investment to make as much money as possible.

    the fascade is staying, you can tell progress is being made with every day that passes. I just hope the retail space is something that the neighborhood needs, not another hotpot or chinese restaurant.

  92. Rock Music Venue – The Richmond deserves it! This would make much coin and there is a void for a good one.

  93. SFHipster is absolutely correct, no one goes to movie theaters anymore, at least not enough to support them, and this space would be better utilized by the Richmond community as something other than another failed movie theater.

    And another thing you old coots, many of us with families could use a decent grocery store, ya that’s right, I said we want a real Super Market.

    Go suck it you old grey haired NIMBY’s! Ha ha!

  94. Hi,

    I would love to see it converted to a performing arts space. A place where plays can be shown, and concerts can be held. There are really no music venues in the richmond, other than 540club which is tiny. Other parts of town have places like Great American music hall, the fillmore, the independent, the brick and mortar and the chapel in the mission (both fairly new and thriving)…

    I think the richmond could really benefit from a music venue. Not only for the local residents, but for the many fine chinese, japanese, korean, and more food establishments along geary and clement. It would be a good influx of cash to our community.

    I could actually help w/ procuring talent if this is a route you go. let me know.


  95. 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.

Comments are closed.