The proposal by the Peninsula Arts Guild, a nonprofit made up of president Drew Dunlevie and board members Pete Briger and Thomas Layton, is a philanthropic offer to buy the Guild Theatre, renovate it into an events venue at an expected cost of $10 million to $20 million, and operate and program it as a venue for live music, comedy, author talks and other community-focused events.
Since the proposal was announced publicly at the City Council's annual goal-setting meeting at the end of January, the idea has become wildly popular — after the item appeared on the council's Feb. 13 agenda, roughly 60 people sent emails to the council expressing support for the project, and five appeared at the meeting to advocate for the project. Criticism generally had to do with concerns about parking and traffic.
Among the supporters was Judy Adams, who has led a campaign called "Save the Guild" with the goal of renovating the movie theater to continue to show movies. Now, she is rallying volunteers to discuss the new venue's potential film programs, and has asked for those interested to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. She told the council, "I've basically moved from 'Save the Guild' to 'support the new Guild.'"
Patrick Corman, chairman of the Kepler's Literary Foundation, called the project "audacious and transformative" and "in keeping with the culture of risk-taking that defines our community."
Skip Hilton, a frequent concertgoer and former member of the advisory committee for the downtown specific plan, said the project aligns with the goal of the specific plan to enliven the downtown even if it doesn't yet align with the specific ordinances in the plan. The proposed building would be more dense than the currently allowed floor-area ratio dictated by the specific plan, and would not come with its own parking.
Mr. Dunlevie said the venue would likely be used one to three nights per week, with a goal of having a maximum standing-room capacity of 500. Currently, the theater's maximum capacity is 266.
Because concerts would run in the evening hours when not much else is happening in town, he said, there should be abundant public parking available in city lots. Plus, people may visit restaurants or bars in town before going to the concert, so there would be some shared parking with other businesses.
According to preliminary drawings by CAW Architects, the project could expand the square footage of the existing building to about 11,000 square feet, from 4,800 square feet. Much of that would be below ground level.
Architect Chris Wasney explained that the venue would have a basement intended for use as a dressing room and gathering area; a main floor with a lobby, a stage, a main viewing area, seating and a bar; and a second floor with a smaller bar and more viewing spots.
As to the future of movies in the venue, Mr. Dunlevie said he wants the Guild to continue to show films.
"We are going to bend over backwards to do well by the community," he said.
As to whether the visual look of the Guild would remain, the council expressed ambivalence. Mayor Peter Ohtaki indicated paying some homage to the art deco, movie house vibe of the facility could be a nice touch, but keeping the marquee or other specific elements of the current theater is unnecessary.
The project is expected to move quickly: Between now and May, the city will develop a work plan, budget and project timeline for the project and retain a consultant to help with the specific plan revisions needed for the project to work. The goal is to bring the project to the Planning Commission by June and by July, to the council for review. The Feb. 13 discussion served to introduce the council to the specifics of the project and give early guidance on the project before plans are formally submitted.
The rush is because the applicant (Peninsula Arts Guild) is under a contract to buy the property from the current owner; the contract expires in July, according to a staff report.
According to Mark Muenzer, assistant community development director, the applicant will pay for all staff and consultant costs related to the project. As of Feb. 15, he did not have an estimate on what staff costs would be, but said he had requested a report for the estimated consultant costs.
This story contains 780 words.
Stories older than 90 days are available only to subscribing members. Please help sustain quality local journalism by becoming a subscribing member today.
If you are already a subscriber, please log in so you can continue to enjoy unlimited access to stories and archives. Subscriptions start at $5 per month and may be cancelled at any time.