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.