For years it was one of E’ville’s “best kept secrets” to those that wanted to avoid navigating the crowds, paid parking and the overall frenzy of AMC Bay Street. Perhaps it was too much of a secret as the thinning crowds were apparent to anyone who attended. As previously reported in December, United Artist Emery Bay 10 theater (Emeryville’s first “modern” theater) that opened in 1989, has shuttered its doors apparently for good. The signature art deco neon of Emeryville’s “other” theater has shown its final Bollywood flick and hosted its final $5 Tuesday. A city desperate for affordable, family friendly entertainment options has lost perhaps its best. We knew it was coming but it still seemed so … abrupt!
Who knows what negotiations went on beyond the view of the public eye but United Artists decided to not renew their lease. “It was their option to renew and they decided they didn’t want to” according to Public Market owner City Center Realty partner Mark Stefan “they’re getting killed by AMC” but “we are talking to other potential theaters as a possible replacement for them”. If there are no takers (and it seems unlikely in light of decreasing box office sales), The Public Market is already making plans to carry out its vision for the space.
The theater would be demolished along with the 800 parking spots required to accommodated it to make way for a “well-known, reputable, sustainable, healthy” grocery store & cafe according to Hart Howerton architect Eron Ashley. Considering Emeryville already has a Pak ‘n Save/Safeway and a Trader Joe’s and the space is on the smaller end (roughly 27,000 sq. ft.), the likely guess would be a Whole Foods or perhaps Andronico’s and it seems Emeryville has the demographics to support it (Mollie Stones and Sprouts are also in the conversation). The proposed Grocery & Cafe would have parking on the roof and an expanded plaza between it and the In-Shape Health Club that could accommodate a “Farmers Market or Art Festival”.
Longtime patrons might be scratching their heads as to what is going on at the Public Market. The demise of Borders, declining food options, the exodus of the Broken Rack pool hall, and now this. Property owners City Center Retail Partners unveiled their long-term vision for the historic space at the well-attended February 20th community presentation that can be seen on the EPOA YouTube Channel below.
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Residents defended the theater in vain and expressed their concerns over the addition of more chain stores. “We want to create a space that is unique to Emeryville” and they hope to lure local and unique merchants with competitive leases. “Rents will be half of what they are at 4th St.” according to Stefan. CCRP boasts an impressive list of West Coast Projects in their portfolio but it remains to be seen if they can find the right formula to return the Public Market to its glory days and live up to its potential. If the developers get approval at next month’s May 22nd Planning Commission meeting, the project would move to council for final approval. If approved, construction of the proposed road alignment would begin this summer and be complete within 3-4 months. The retail spaces & parking lot would be an additional 10-12 months.