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Latest proposal for Alexandria Theater development includes swim center, classrooms and office space

A rendering of the Swim Center that would be located on the ground floor of the old Alexandria Theater building at 5400 Geary

Yesterday we learned of the new (and unexpected!) plans for the old Alexandria Theater (5400 Geary) that were submitted to the Planning Department this month. The new plans include a swim center, a learning center with 12 classrooms, and office space.

The project, developed by TimeSpace Group in Saratoga, CA, completely re-imagines the interior space of the old theater building.

Level 1: Swim Center

Entering on the street level, you come into a lobby that leads into the 6,900 square foot Swim Center that features one small pool and one large pool, bordered by a visitor’s gallery on the west side. The wall that was formerly the mirrored backdrop to the theater’s candy counter in the lobby will be opened with windows into the Swim Center.

The viewing area in the Swim Center

The floor plan for the ground floor Swim Center and lobby. Click to enlarge

Level 2: Learning Center

On the second floor is the Learning Center that features 12 classrooms, a small indoor amphitheater, and two offices. The center is accessed through the main lobby up the grand staircase (as well as via new elevators).

The plans describe the Learning Center as “focused on continuing education or advanced learning for students between the ages of 6 to 14 (from K to 8th grades) through additional educational activities”. The space can also be a “gathering space for evening meetings for local non-profit and community groups”.

A rendering of a classroom in the Learning Center on the second floor.

Another view of the classroom in the Learning Center

The floor plan of the Learning Center on the second floor, which includes 12 classrooms

Level 3: Business Center

On the new third floor, which would still sit inside the existing theater structure, is the Business Center with 8,000 square feet of open office space beneath the theater’s domed ceiling. The office level is open in one corner to look down on the amphitheater, and also includes a 250 square foot conference room.

“Located on the “roof” of essentially a new building built within the shell of the existing building, the office space seems to float between the east and west mural walls, just below the historic ceiling and dome with its original 1923 chandelier.”

The open office space in the Business Center, featuring the historic murals on the walls

The open office space in the Business Center, featuring the historic murals on the walls

The floor plan for the Business Center on the third floor. Click to enlarge

On the exterior of the building, much will remain the same but some changes will be implemented. The marquee and box office will remain in place, as will the tall blade marquee on the Geary side of the building; all will be refurbished. But the 1976 marquee, which currently reads as “1 2 3” to denote the three theaters that made up the Alexandria Theater in its later years, will be removed.

Inside the building, the plans preserve much of the Art Deco ornamentation of the building including the murals, accents in the lobby like the “jeweled” water fountain and bronze rail staircase, and restoration of the historic ceiling and dome.

This is not the first foray for TimeSquare Group into the realm of aquatics and community centers. Company founder Yorke Lee is also the founder of Saratoga Star Aquatics and Milpitas Star Aquatics and Fitness center.

TimeSquare is also the developer behind the Alexandria Residences currently being erected behind the theater on 18th Avenue. The new four-story development will consist of two levels of underground parking with 122 spaces, approximately 4,800 square feet of retail spaces on the ground floor, and 43 dwelling units on the upper floors, including one, two and three-bedroom units. Construction began on the project in June 2016.

So, what do you think, Richmond District? Let us know in the comments.

Sarah B.

A rendering of The Forum amphitheater that is accessible from the Learning and Business centers

A side view from 18th Avenue, showing the three levels of the building. Click to enlarge

29 Comments

  1. I had thought that a condition of further development was maintaining the presence of some theater space. Previous plan iterations had included theater space. I’d prefer that to a swimming pool.

  2. Does the inclusion of the pool represent any business connection to the YMCA across the street or will the swim center just be a separate profit-making enterprise? I assume they’d rent/lease out time to the YMCA if the price is right. Will the swim center be another introduction of two-tiered recreations in the Richmond District (It’ll be a great pool, somewhat like USF, but we’ll keep the riff-raff out with high membership fees)?

  3. Love this idea! Esp the pool, which looks like it could be a competitor to the USF pool, the best in the city right now. Hoping the swim center gives local neighborhood discounts like USF does for immediately surrounding areas. Bravo!

  4. This is an interesting concept.
    I am curious who/what the learning center is for (non-profit? Religious group?) and whether the business center will actually be offices for a business or if it will be a co-working space. The pool is fine with me, I can see a partnership with the YMCA in the works, and think it would be a great idea.
    Glad they are planning to maintain/restore the art deco interiors.

  5. Interesting concept!
    But, the 8,000 SF office space at the top of the building seems completely unrealistic. The Richmond District has never been the neighborhood to attract a business large enough to fill that kind of space. And, you have to ask yourself, would you really want a business that large in the neighborhood?
    The pool and learning center are great ideas that would work wonderfully in the neighborhood. The top floor becoming a theater something equivalent to the Alamo Drafthouse would be much more enticing to the neighborhood and would work well with the proposed plans for the bottom floor.

  6. 1st floor – long term lease with YMCA
    2nd floor – Charter School
    3rd floor – Medical/Dental offices

  7. @Richmond Resident, There is no association with YMCA. Take a look at the links to their existing businesses in Saratoga and Milpitas in the article, and perhaps download a membership application to determine what their fees are.

  8. I share some of the questions about the pool space. As an avid swimmer, I love the thought of a pool facility within walking distance, but would love one with swimming laps (rather than a purely kiddie pool a la petit balen), but the costs have to work since Hamilton and USF are both close and relatively inexpensive.

  9. If it looks half as good as those CGI models, it’ll be great. The Academy of Art students must have been working overtime for this one.

    I’d still strongly prefer a theater (Alamo Drafthouse?), but I think that hope is in vain. It’d probably hurt the Balboa too much anyway.

  10. We still need a real gym (not the small/inadequate/expensive Y or the expensive/distant JCC in Laurel Heights) – e.g, a 24 hr Fitness, Fitness SF, Equinox etc in our Richmond neighborhood that is accessible to a critical mass of neighbors…..build it and they will come!

  11. @Sarah – Take a look at the swim center floor plan. There is one large pool and one small pool.

  12. Agree that a 24 hour fitness center type gym would be a great addition to the neighborhood. But this is still a good use. As the neighbor resident mix continues to evolve, there might be a company who will take space in the future.

  13. From the drawing, it appears that the ‘large’ pool is only 60’/20 yards. Standard for lap swimming/competitive swimming is 25 yards. Five more yards on the big pool please!

  14. Was hoping to still have a theater, but not surprised that they finally got around that possibility. Now I’m wondering what is going to happen to the existing retail spaces on Geary that are part of the the building. Looks like they’re going to get pushed out, too. I’m willing to bet the new retail spaces on 18th will be too expensive for them…

  15. @Mire – The retail businesses will remain on Geary; the storefronts will be reconfigured slightly according to the plans.

  16. This is just more exclusive junk from developers with lots of ambition and no imagination. We DO need more accessible theater/ live arts space, and space for small business and industry. We do NOT need more office space, since every other small business shut down in the neighborhood is being re-rented for exactly that purpose (Shan Yee Poon Ballet, Satin Moon Fabrics, etc. etc. etc.) We also do not need more exclusive and exclusionary “clubs” – academic, sports – whatever – they all serve to continue the trends towards greed and shortsightedness. A city cannot exist on private clubs, high end restaurants, luxury ‘homes’ and Uber rides. If this city is not going to turn into the world’s largest gated community, then business and community leaders will have to learn to press for property development that serves multiple populations – young, old and poor, included.

  17. @RICHMONDMAN The 2nd floor can not be a charter school. To be licenced as school or preschool it would need to be on ground level (exiting requirement) and have exterior play area (75sf per kid.) “Learning facilities” don’t need that.

  18. So sad there’s not a plan to restore the theater to a film/arts space. Once the old theaters are gone we’lol never again have those beautiful interiors. I was really hoping this would be space everyone can enjoy. The learning center/business center/pool cater to specific interests.

    Extremely disappointed.

  19. It’s nice to see there’s some progress being made and it seems smart to have a swim center with a learning center – imagining kids could take after school classes and then a swim lesson – then get picked up by a parent in time for dinner, or some such scenario. The third floor office space can be utilized as a shared/co-work space, such as WeWork. This is just getting interesting!

  20. I wonder how the workspace users will transport themselves to the building. It’s quite a distance away from the 33 buses to the Mission District.

  21. Affordable gym with Yoga classes……pool??? Not so sure. Theater yes, Richmond neighbors need to travel far for the Sundance experience.
    At least something is being planned, since this space has been empty so long.

  22. The learning centers are an interesting idea, but I would hope that they have a partnership with the YMCA, which is an integral part of this community.
    Also, what about a place for senior activities since there are so many aging Baby Boomers around?

  23. I waited 20 years wondering why this beautiful,well buillt landmark sat rotting in the seabreeze…hoping it would resurrect to it’s designed intent of being a overall community gathering point,as movies when built were the new and exciting entertainment u couldn’t get anywhere else,then…21st century learning will be thru the cloud,business space is the Trojan horse for big empty space to convert forl imited private profit a few years later,as done with the pool with a cover@the oasis club at 9th Street…vote NO… this building should be landmarked for historical preservation for public use and tourism to see what was then,like the fox theater in oakland,don’t let them rob us of another historical address

  24. Thanks for the compliment eddie,my words were thoughts held back to long..I am all for private property rights,but if u buy something we all know is a community asset,and let it rot for 20 years thinking we will forget of its history and potential is not happening…,a wasted 20 years of use…,well u can imagine what i think..where are are elected officials on this matter? A pool,learning center and office space can be put anywhere else on the map,this place needs to be preserved to show how prior to TV in the home the only way to be entertained was actually go out and go where the entertainment was…a current example is the great star theater,which was an anchor of information for local community last century and is now so well managed and built can do same for another….maybe San Francisco can contribute some of the money generated from parking and street cleaning tickets in the area to assist preservation…I would guess fixing up what is already there is cheaper and less disruption that installing a pool..while at it restore Sutro baths to be the Richmond districts swimming pool,and learning center it’s intended use until Sutro books burned,plus easier parking…can our political system do something besides write parking tickets?please comment mayor lee

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