The historic Palo Alto Bowl in south Palo Alto will get a new owner May 1 and its lease is being extended to 2014, according to new owner Rhythm Smith and a representative of the San Jose-based Barry Swenson Builder.
"We've extended the lease," Aaron Barger, senior development manager at Swenson, confirmed Tuesday when asked about a reported delay in redevelopment of the site at 4309 El Camino Real.
Smith, currently general manager of the bowling alley, told the Weekly that she has purchased the business from current owner Rex Golovic, who operates two other bowling alleys, in San Mateo and Daly City.
She said the lease-extension arrangements have been completed and that she will become owner as of May 1.
The Thai Garden restaurant in front of the bowling alley is part of the business and will remain, she said.
Smith said she does not know how many children have had birthday and other parties or events at the bowling alley over the years -- "tons of 'em."
The development plan had been to replace the half-century-old bowling alley and Thai Garden restaurant -- itself a longtime community landmark -- with a 167-room hotel and 26 three-story townhouses, with a pedestrian/bike path along the rear of the property.
Barger said the economy is a significant factor in the extension of the lease, which was being finalized Tuesday. "We are not ready to build yet, anyway, and it's a good thing to keep the bowling alley there," he said.
The existing lease would have expired at the end of April, he said.
The City Council approved the development Dec. 14 by a 7-2 vote, despite last-minute appeals from several bowlers to save it. Council members expressed empathy toward those protesting the closure but said the project meets the terms of a rezoning of the site about three years earlier. Construction would have begun this fall, a representative of the owners said at the Dec. 14 meeting.
"When the economy turns around we will proceed with the project," Barger told the Weekly. If the economy warrants it there are provisions to end the lease a bit before 2014, with adequate notice to the bowling-alley owner, he said.
Amy French, manager of current planning for Palo Alto, said the site-and-design approval for the project is good for two years and can be extended, so the city approval of the development would remain in effect.