<B>I DREAM OF THEATER ... </B>The looming departure of <B>Borders Books</B> from downtown Palo Alto has given some residents hope that the spacious venue could once again serve as a theater. The building at 456 University Ave. housed the <B>Varsity Theatre</B>, a single-screen movie house, between 1927 and 1994 and was converted into a retail location the year after the theater's closure. City resident <B>Mark Weiss</B>, a long-time advocate of public art, wrote a letter to the City Council this week urging the council to seize the opportunity and consider bringing a new theater to downtown Palo Alto. The venue, he argued, could be a future site for a "a public hall, for entertainment, for a marketplace of ideas, for live music concerts, for live theatre, for lectures, for government outreach, for film programming and high technology showcasing, for up to 900 people at a time." Palo Alto officials aren't so sure. <B>Thomas Fehrenbach</B>, the city's economic development manager, issued a report this week claiming that a performing arts theater for that site "has significant obstacles, especially in light of the constraints and costs of such a retrofit." He also wrote that given the site's "limited University Avenue frontage and large size," it would be a "major challenge" to find a single retailer to occupy the site. The report irked Weiss and local land-use watchdog <B>Winter Dellenbach</B>, who publicly denounced it at this week's City Council meeting as being filled with "unsubstantiated conclusions and odd assertions." She particularly disputed Fehrenbach's assertion that the site's frontage presents an obstacle to a potential new theater. "Borders was there for 10 years. It wasn't site failure," Dellenbach said. "The site is just fine."
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posted Friday, August 5, 2011, 12:00 AM