What's the future for the Guild Theatre in Menlo Park?

Property listed as available for redevelopment on a long-term lease

Since 1926, when it opened with the silent film "King of the Turf," the Guild Theatre has welcomed moviegoers in downtown Menlo Park.

Now, the property where the Guild sits has been listed as available to be developed as offices or a mixed-use building under a long-term lease.

The theater is one of only two remaining single-screen theaters in the area. The other is the Stanford Theatre in Palo Alto, which is owned and operated by a nonprofit foundation.

The real estate listing, by Sam Arsan of Arsan Realty in Redwood City, says the current tenants, Landmark Theatres, are on a month-to-month rental agreement.

"This building is ready for redevelopment," the listing says. "Convert this building to mixed use and re-lease at a substantial profit," it continues. "Many permitted uses including retail or office."

Property owner Howard "Sandy" Crittenden of Atherton says he placed the property on the market several months ago and has had some interest, including a potential tenant currently considering what he thinks "would be an exciting change of use."

Mr. Crittenden said he is unsure of Landmark Theatres' plans. "I think they need to decide what they want to do," he said. "We haven't sat down and really (discussed) what are their interests."

When contacted by the Almanac, Chris Principo, a publicist for Landmark Theatres, said: "This is the first I have heard of this." He said Landmark's home office also had not heard the building is being advertised.

Potential reuse of the property is constrained mostly by the fact that it has no parking, noted both Mr. Crittenden and Jim Cogan, Menlo Park's economic development manager.

Mr. Crittenden said that he had been told that if the use of the 4,815-square-foot property and 4,400-square-foot building is less intensive than the current theater use, it would not require adding parking.

But Mr. Cogan said that only applies if the building remains a theater. "If someone was to do just about anything else but a theater, they would have to comply with the parking requirements of the specific plan," he said.

If parking were provided, the specific plan allows mixed-use or mixed-use residential on the site, with between 25 to 40 residential units per acre, depending on whether or not public benefits are provided, Mr. Cogan said. Maximum height is 38 feet.

Mr. Crittenden, a long-time Atherton resident, previously owned the site of the Park Theatre, which closed in 2002. After he spent years unsuccessfully trying to redevelop the property, he sold it in 2014. The new owners, listed as 1275 LLC with Sean and Erik Corrigan as representatives, have recently submitted a plan for a mixed retail, office and housing development on the property, with at-grade and underground parking, Mr. Cogan said.

Mr. Crittenden said he had thought of developing the Guild property himself, "but that's not where my interests lie."

The Guild has long been a part of Menlo Park history. A 2001 story about the Guild by Almanac writer Alan Sissenwein said the theater was originally built by Boyd Braden for $75,000 in the days of silent films. When it opened in 1926, it was called the Menlo Theatre and boasted a $10,000 organ. The name changed to the Guild in the late 1940s, he wrote.

Murals originally adorned the theater walls, the article says, but were later covered with curtains. For many years the theater featured first-run features, but in recent years it has specialized in foreign, vintage and independent films, plus monthly midnight showings of the "Rocky Horror Picture Show."

Longtime Menlo Park residents told Mr. Sissenwein they remembered Western serials and Sunday matinees filled with children at the theater.

Mr. Crittenden said he has a historic evaluation of the building showing it is not historic. Mr. Cogan said that evaluation is on file and would be looked at in conjunction with any development proposal.

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22 people like this
Posted by MP Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jan 12, 2016 at 12:21 pm

I truly appreciate the existence of Guild Theater in Menlo Park as it is not easy to find a theater showing independent / foreign films nearby. It is part of Menlo Park history and culture. Why do we need more retail and office spaces? I hope the space will be continued as a theatre under the new development (if it has to be that way).

41 people like this
Posted by Beth
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 12, 2016 at 12:23 pm

Crittendon is same person who defaced the other old theater further down ECR in the dead of night to end any talk of preserving it, then left it looking terrible, half there-half gone. Did a poor job all around.

I hope he has more pride in his 'work' these days.

23 people like this
Posted by Enuff
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 12, 2016 at 1:43 pm

Save the Guild! We have hardly any nightlife as it is, and this theater adds to our city's vibrancy by providing high quality movies right in our downtown. The last thing we need is more office buildings. Our city is becoming a wasteland with less and less of benefit for the residents.
The Guild Theater is a cherished institution in Menlo Park, as was the Park Theater. So sad that we lost the Park. Don't let the Guild follow in its footsteps. Let's not become Menlo Office Park.

28 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 12, 2016 at 1:58 pm

Yes, Save the Guild. And maybe this needs the Council to force a Restricted Use on the property to keep it as Theater/Entertainment only. Who's with me!

16 people like this
Posted by Peninsula Reader
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 12, 2016 at 2:06 pm

We do not need more congestion. Keep our theater! Crittendon indeed defaced one building. Careful he will go for this also. Please preserve what little of Menlo we have left.

9 people like this
Posted by MPer
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 12, 2016 at 3:35 pm

For the folks who want the Guild to remain a theater, here is a novel idea. Buy the building from Mr. Crittendon and run it as a theater. No more conversation needed. There is plenty of money in MP & Atherton to do so.

17 people like this
Posted by Mike Keenly
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jan 12, 2016 at 9:06 pm

The Guild is the best thing along this stretch of El Camino. I'd hate to see it reach the same fate as the Park Theater.

3 people like this
Posted by MP represent
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jan 12, 2016 at 10:50 pm

Looks like he's looking to do a long term ground lease and not actually sell the property, which may work in this frothy investment market, but it's a less desirable mid block location with no parking so it's a long shot. It would be more appealing if he gathered neighboring owners so someone could build something more substantial. What would be even more interesting would be if he spruced it up for the theater and did more active marketing alongside local vendors in exchange for a share of upside income, or redeveloped it himself (smartly) while helping to relocate the theater to a location adjacent to Santa Cruz Ave where they've discussed some sort of entertainment component alongside the proposed parking structures. It would be nice to see something happen downtown. For all the interesting people and money in the area, it sure is a bore. Increased density is a reality of the area so let's work on ideas we like rather than shooting everything down and ending up with junk or simply frustration.

6 people like this
Posted by Samia
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jan 13, 2016 at 11:15 am

Sad, sad, sad. Hope it is not added to the list of useful, interesting destinations that have left Menlo Park in recent years (Roger Reynolds, Sunset, Iberia...). When will MP have enough office space and over-priced townhouses?

Like this comment
Posted by Happy Man
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 14, 2016 at 1:32 pm

Rumour has it, it will be a floatation center. I think this would benefit the community much more than a movie theatre. Its time we look at businesses that benefit the community rather than sedating them.
If this is the business that is replacing the Guild, I say yes yes yes. I have to drive to San Francisco to float for my pain relief because we do not have anywhere local. I float at the same canter as the San Francisco Warriors. Yes it attract high profile athletes and many other professionals because of its benefits. This can only be good for Menlo Park community.

4 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 14, 2016 at 2:13 pm

Big cities define themselves as such with a charm bracelet of one major university, one national sports team, a symphony, a headquarters of a big company, and a few extra tall buildings. That seems to be the 'minimum' to allow your local to be printed in 14 pt type on a map rather than 9 pt.

For smaller towns like Menlo Park, the list goes One well noted and fancy restaurant, some good cafes where everyone meets, a 'mainstreet' area where the shops have a wide variety of offerings, AND A MOVIE THEATRE!

Not some esoteric hyro-therapy center...........

2 people like this
Posted by Stop the Trolls
a resident of another community
on Jan 14, 2016 at 7:18 pm

[Part removed.]

And as for your statement -- "Its time we look at businesses that benefit the community rather than sedating them" -- not clear on the concept of cinema, are you?

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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