Andy Duncan proposes city buy Park Theatre

He says he would lease space for a dance studio

The ongoing Park Theatre saga took yet another turn Wednesday night.

Menlo Park resident Andy Duncan, who previously asked the city to grant him $500,000 so he can turn the 60-year-old theater into a dance studio, now has a new plan for the abandoned El Camino Real movie house: The city should buy it.

Talking to a handful of residents at a community meeting, Mr. Duncan laid out a new plan to restore the exterior of the deteriorating theater and remodel the interior to make way for the Menlo Park Academy of Dance, which is currently housed a block away from the theater, and co-owned by Mr. Duncan's mother.

Mr. Duncan suggested the city buy the theater from the current owner, Atherton resident Howard Crittenden, for $2.2 million. He's proposing that the city then grant him a 55-year lease, so the Menlo Park Academy of Dance can move into the space.

Mr. Duncan said he would pay the city $750,000 upfront, plus ongoing payments yet to be determined to lease the property. He said he would foot the bill for restoring historic elements of the building, including the exterior, the neon sign, the ticket booth, and the lobby. The costs of restoring the theater and converting it into a dance studio are estimated to be $2.5 million, Mr. Duncan said.

Last month, Mr. Duncan asked the City Council for a $500,000 grant or loan for his project, but many residents -- including some council members -- have expressed major concerns with giving taxpayer dollars to a private business.

At the Wednesday night meeting, Mr. Duncan acknowledged that his request for a grant or loan made some member of the public uneasy, and he called his new proposal a "win-win," stating that the theater would be restored, and be the city's to keep once the lease ends.

"I'm doing this because I want to save the theater and find a new home for the Menlo Park Academy of Dance," he said. "Under this plan, we keep the Menlo Park Academy of Dance in downtown Menlo Park, and the city gets a restored theater at a major discount."

The council could consider Mr. Duncan's proposal as soon as Tuesday, Sept. 18.


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Posted by Martin Engel
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Sep 13, 2007 at 9:30 am

Mr. Duncan, please leave us alone. You are free to buy anything and do anything you wish, so long as it's legal. Go ahead. But, leave the City of Menlo Park – that's us – alone. We are not interested in your schemes and business deals. We are not in the real estate business. We are now living under a controversial new tax (UUT) and don't want to squander our tax dollars on purchases that don't begin to solve the many critical issues with which this city is struggling. With all due respect, Mr. Duncan, please leave us alone.

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Posted by Joanna
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 14, 2007 at 7:23 am

What? And to think I thought the first idea was an insult to intelligent people...

Let me get this straight:

1) Menlo Park gets into the real estate and lease-back biz with Duncan
2) owner gets $2.2m for non-historic decrepit theater
3) exterior "renovated" with "Private Dance Studio" flashing on the marquee sign
4) Duncan and Family makes below market rate "lease payments"
5) Menlo Park gets building back, in need of a renovation because it never got one in 2007, in 2057???

This is the most ridiculous and insulting idea ever.

Duncan: leave Menlo Park alone. Leave the theater alone. If you want to make deals, do us a favor and make them with private parties. Talk to a friend of a friend who owns _______. Don't ask for a handout.

BUT..... Wait a minute here! Maybe you are on to something. Our city manager makes more than the Governor and any city manager in the area.
Web Link
The council says it is justified. So if they are living in la-la land as well, maybe they will approve just about any idea.

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Posted by Hugo
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Sep 15, 2007 at 4:19 pm


And the city leases it back to Duncan below market rate?

This sounds like the Burgess Pool deal -- which Her Honor vehemently fought. Let the public pay and then give out without competitive bidding.

The Park may be a 'sick building' at this point -- a building that due to environmental issues causes illnesses to occupants. If so, and the city buys it, the city would be the deep pockets for suits.

I'd hate to see Measure T funds going to this nonsense. Speaking of Measure-T, why isn't renovating Burgess Gym and Rec Center a priority?

Like this comment
Posted by real politik
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Sep 16, 2007 at 11:38 pm

the only reason this is still alive is Fergusson has nothing substantial to show for her mayoral term, her "higher" political ambitions aside. The police dept. is understaffed and no other dept. heads have any incentive to optimize their staff. This power vaccuum will continue because of the mayor's missteps and the perception that the upcoming election Nov. '08 could change the council bias. Cohen will most likely be mayor next year and his re=election will be guaranteed if he asserts himself to focus on long neglected infrastructure issues. The Duncan Park dance is a sad example of how
the "mayor" is completely over her head.

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Posted by Free Money
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 17, 2007 at 10:43 am

Maybe the city could buy my apartment building and lease it back to me and my neighbors at below-market rent! We'd let the city have the building back in 50 years. Win-win, right?

Sign me up for my 5 hours of council and staff time to pitch the idea -- I think it's a winner!

Like this comment
Posted by very bad idea
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 17, 2007 at 7:50 pm

Mayor Fergusson is way off base on this issue. She has wasted much council and staff time on this issue, which seems to be totally without merit. The theater is hardly historic; the local historical society wouldn't even buy into that.

Only the dance studio would benefit from this issue. I've been told the Mayor's kids are in the dance studio program; is that why she continues to push this issue?

I thought the issue was dead after the special Monday meeting; but no it comes back again. Well I hope some council member will just ask to TABLE the issue; that should kill it forever.

Hopefully the next election won't see a return to a council like Jellins, DuBoc and Winkler. Even with the Mayor's much less than outstanding record, this council at least listens part of the time to its citizens, doesn't give away 8 million dollar taxpayer funded pools to a private enterprise and approve projects like Derry. No I'm not happy with this year's events, but compared to the previous 4 years, it is wonderful.

very bad idea

Like this comment
Posted by Maria
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Sep 18, 2007 at 9:08 am

This is not a historic building. The city has no businesss with its limited budget purchasing this property. Way more students would benefit by purchasing property for a full size soccer field.

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