News

Offices planned for Borders building

Submitted plans call for mix of office space, retail at site of former theater

When Borders Books leaves Palo Alto later this month, its prominent University Avenue building will likely be converted to office spaces, with some retail on the ground floor, according to plans recently submitted by the property owner.

The bookstore, which once housed the Varsity Theatre, is planning to close shop in the coming weeks because of the company's liquidation. The store's pending departure had prompted local theater lovers to lobby for the building to be converted to a theater. But as the new plans indicate, the building's owner, Charles "Chop" Keenan, has other ideas.

Under the proposal Keenan submitted to the city, the historical building would be converted to a mix of retail and office space, with offices occupying the entire second floor of the two-story building and about a quarter of the ground floor. The rest of the ground floor would be retail space.

The city's Historic Resources Board is scheduled to evaluate the proposal on Oct. 5.

Despite the new plan, city staff is continuing to reach out to people in the entertainment community to evaluate potential interest in opening a theater at the Borders site on University Avenue and Waverley Street. Thomas Fehrenbach, the city's economic-development manager, wrote in a letter to city officials that his office has been calling people in the performing-arts community to inform them about the building's availability.

"As of now, there have not been any formal proposals, but staff continues to reach out to possible operators to raise awareness/interest," Fehrenbach wrote.

The city also released a brochure promoting the high foot traffic around the building's location, the building's proximity to Stanford and Caltrain and its "high identity courtyard." The brochure also notes that the building is "ideal for theatre use."

But converting the store back to a theater could prove prohibitively expensive, Fehrenbach wrote in a report last month. He also warned that it might be difficult to find a store willing to take over the entire building.

"The economic viability of a movie or performing arts theater for that site may encounter significant obstacles, especially in light of the constraints and costs of such a retrofit," Fehrenbach wrote. "Given its limited University Avenue frontage and large size, finding a retailer interested in the entire space also presents a major challenge in a retail environment facing serious competition from the Internet and newer retail destinations within Palo Alto's market area."

The downtown building has a long history as an entertainment venue. The Varsity Theatre opened in 1927 and remained in place until 1994. The following year, the building was converted to retail and Borders set up shop despite an effort from theater lovers to preserve the theater.

Mark Weiss, a leading proponent of bringing a theater back to University Avenue, said he hopes city leaders will seriously consider the public benefits of having an entertainment venue downtown and discuss the possibility of converting the Borders store back to a theater with Keenan. Weiss, a local concert promoter, said he believes a downtown theater could be a viable business, particularly given the lack of other concert venues in the city.

"It's an incredible waste to turn one of the most beautiful theaters in the state into office space," Weiss said.

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Blake
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 9, 2011 at 10:05 am

It's also an incredible waste Mr. Weiss to expect an investor to invest millions of dollars into a venture that is going to lose money. Think about someone or something beyond your special interest.


Like this comment
Posted by Ray
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 9, 2011 at 10:22 am

Exactly what we need! Another office building with no parking availability for employees, a loss of sales tax revenue for the city of Palo Alto, and another source of income for the property owner, a non-resident of the city.


Like this comment
Posted by Lisa
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 9, 2011 at 10:37 am

I support the Varsity Theatre, and Mr. Weiss as well. This is a beautiful theatre,and a true loss to the community. I note that successful arts venues have a very positive economic impact on surrounding restaurants and retail stores.

It will truly be a shame if the Oct. 5th historic resources board approves of Mr. Keenan's plans to chop the beautiful interior into a warren of offices to be occupied by only a few people, whatever the benefit to society.

Blake, you can't measure everything in terms of money. Mr. Packard is doing a wonderful thing and bringing joy to many hearts with his Stanford Theatre foundation. It is my hope that an angel will rescue this historic building so that many may enjoy it's benefits.


Like this comment
Posted by TimH
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 9, 2011 at 10:40 am

Good, sensible plan. It's well known that Palo Alto is attractive to funded high-tech startups and established companies who desire a prestige address for their executive or sales location. I grew up going to movies at the Varsity and later to see live entertainment, and while the former was charming, the latter was kind of trashy and did not serve the neighborhood well in the long run. Borders was a good store but they are in an evolving business and failed to keep up with their competition.

Offices bring companies, who in turn bring tax revenue that provides money to maintain city streets and public spaces. The employees of these companies bring money to Palo Alto merchants and keep the downtown area active and relevant.

There is no need to perpetuate the old theater venue, since downtown already has "historic" movie house locations. The arts are extremely well handled in Palo Alto, and the Borders/Varsity space is well served by daytime business activity. This is a good plan and a pretty quick response as well.


Like this comment
Posted by Becky Sanders
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 9, 2011 at 10:50 am

I agree a stand alone movie theater probably is not viable. The multiplexes took out Mom and Pop long ago and the only reason the Stanford theater can make it is with a benefactor. But why not look at mixed use options -- movie theater, dramatic theater, concert hall, lecture hall. I agree it would be expensive to retrofit it and maybe it'd be hard to figure out where to put dressing rooms and all of that when the old theater didn't have that. There is no LIVE performance venue with seats downtown at present is there? I think it's worth a look. I don't want businessman Chop Keenan to lose money on the deal, but if he was open mind to enhancing our civic cultural life, I'd for one think that would be very reasonable.


Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 9, 2011 at 10:54 am

Offices? What an idiotic idea, that building, that business that is there has always been an anchor for bringing people into Palo Alto to have a good time and spend money ... this is idiotic.

That is a wonderful building and a great location ... why waste it with offices? Ugh, what a stupid idea!


Like this comment
Posted by MA
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 9, 2011 at 10:56 am

This historic space should have tenants
or one tenant whose use would allow public
access to the whole site Offices won't do that.
Retail, entertainment, even restaurants would
allow that.


Like this comment
Posted by Blake
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 9, 2011 at 11:00 am

Lisa, I certainly do not measure everything with money, but I do attempt to apply some simple common sense and logic. The Stanford Theater is already located in the downtown area and is only surviving because of a big money benefactor. A second venue of similar nature could not survive. Palo Alto has a rich history of supporting the arts but there are limits. A combination of retail and office space could still pay tribute to the building's history, while still making it economically viable.


Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 9, 2011 at 11:04 am

Chop Keenan may not live in Palo Alto, but he is a Palo Altan. He grew up in Crescent Park and graduated from Paly.

Some of you may not be aware, but Palo Alto HS is planning to build a brand new performing arts center within the next 5 years or so. It will seat between 400 to 500. With plenty of parking and ease of access, why would you want to spend millions on the Varsity theatre when publicly funded venue will be going in just a half-mile away.

And in the meantime, Stanford is building the new Bing performing arts center right near Frost Amphitheater.

Given the addition of two new performing arts facilities within the next few years, both funded, designed and guaranteed to be online - why would anyone want to compete with that in mind?

The only way it works is whether someone has money to burn and would just soon give it away


Like this comment
Posted by Kim
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 9, 2011 at 11:19 am

Becky, there is, actually, a live theatre company in downtown Palo Alto. It's called Dragon Productions Theatre at it's at Alma and Hamilton. Visit Web Link for details. (We've got to move at the end of 2012 and are looking for ways to stay downtown.)


Like this comment
Posted by kongjie
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 9, 2011 at 11:22 am

kongjie is a registered user.

It doesn't have to be a theater to preserve some of the building's heritage. How about offices, but an innovative space aimed at small tech startups and one that encourages communication and collaboration? Scattered about University Ave you'll see a number of such offices, but putting them in one spot could have some attractive advantages. Add a central cafe for everyone including outsiders to get together.


Like this comment
Posted by Becky Sanders
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 9, 2011 at 11:29 am

@Kim... Yes, I forgot... in fact I've been there and it's a wonderful community theatre. Kind of tiny, but a great venue as well Thanks Kim for putting me in the picture. So, yes we do have a theatre there ... still stand by my interest in seeing the venue option explored... my 2 cents.


Like this comment
Posted by Scholar
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 9, 2011 at 11:31 am

I support the office/retail concept but would like to have them also install a small-scale well-managed live music venue for local musicians and groups, because that area lacks one. Beer/wine bar. Such as what RWC has in the Club Fox small venue. It does not have to be trashy. There is plenty of evening foot traffic around there of young people who are potential customers.


Like this comment
Posted by Meredith
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 9, 2011 at 11:34 am

Hello, Becky Sanders. Allow me to introduce to you Dragon Productions Theatre Company. The Dragon Theatre is located at 535 Alma between Hamilton & University & we offer live professional theatre in an intimate setting right here in Downtown. We will be leaving that location at the end of 2012 & we would be more than happy to find a way to take 3,000-4,000 sq. ft. of the Varsity along with other businesses that might be a fit. Unfortunately, yes- it is all about the money. Angels?


Like this comment
Posted by Iperbolo
a resident of Stanford
on Sep 9, 2011 at 11:42 am

As long as the history of the other beautiful movie theater in Menlo PArk - the Park,if I remember correctly - does not repeat itself. That building is now decayed; the theater was closed to make room for offices...


Like this comment
Posted by Why?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 9, 2011 at 11:47 am

> Thomas Fehrenbach, the city's economic-development manager

This guy's name pops up in articles about business-related issues here in town, but none of the articles ever report on any business that this guy has actually be involved in developing.

So, why does Palo Alto need a 6-figure press contact that offers virtually nothing to any discussion, other than his name?


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 9, 2011 at 11:59 am

The Juana Briones house was a heap and yet some called it historic. This building has character and is historic in the true sense.

We need this building to remain what it is. I don't like the idea of office space and retail, but if that is the outcome, then it should still retain the character or what it once was, just as Borders kept the character of what it once was.

As I walked around Borders I knew I was in a theater. I enjoyed the fact that I was in a theater. I enjoyed the fact that as a member of the public I had access to this wonderful building. As office space, the only people who would see the character are the people who worked there, not the general public.

I would really like this building to remain open to the public so that any of us can enjoy it. Even a restaurant would be preferable to office space because we could all enjoy it.

But regardless, I would hate to see the character of this building destroyed for ever. Please keep it accessible.


Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 9, 2011 at 1:08 pm

>> Some of you may not be aware, but Palo Alto HS is planning to build a brand new performing arts center within the next 5 years or so. It will seat between 400 to 500. With plenty of parking and ease of access, why would you want to spend millions on the Varsity theatre when publicly funded venue will be going in just a half-mile away.


God ... unbelievable ... this recession is going to go on for years and years at the present rate of stupidity in the country ... why are we spending lots of money on Palo Alto High School on a theater? What a waste, the Varsity is already there.

Another example of socialize the investment and the risks and privatize the profits.

People do not want to go to Paly to attend events ... no one is used to going to Paly and there is not shopping or downtown Palo Alto ... and coversely when you would go to see something at Paly would you spend more money in Palo Alto? Probably not.

Get rid of spending big money on Paly, at least until the economy recovers fully, and do something that is needed right now ... that is, to leverage the Varsity to do something productive and nice - like what it was build for !

God this city is stupid sometimes.


Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 9, 2011 at 1:10 pm

A small tech startup in downtown Palo Alto ... are you people daft ... what small tech startup can afford to rent space in the middle of downtown Palo Alto ... and then - if they are successful, they have to move out right away and find something new ... this is pure lunacy.

Use the building for what it was built for and has historic value for ... is that not just bloddy obvious?


Like this comment
Posted by More Cube Farms
a resident of another community
on Sep 9, 2011 at 1:23 pm

From a store of knowledge to a yet another cube farm.


Like this comment
Posted by qt
a resident of Southgate
on Sep 9, 2011 at 1:25 pm

what is a cube farm?


Like this comment
Posted by qt
a resident of Southgate
on Sep 9, 2011 at 1:29 pm

got it,a good one,farm of the cubicles


Like this comment
Posted by Dennis
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 9, 2011 at 1:54 pm

A forward looking suggestion for soon-to-be conversion of the politics of Change to the politics of Perrydumb: Convert it to a Theatre of the Absurd, featuring the works and performances of the local homeless, unemployed and/or underemployed. The conversion to be financed by a Perrydumb tax on the working poor (because paying payroll taxes is, in the Republican world view, not really paying taxes.)


Like this comment
Posted by Arts lover
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 9, 2011 at 1:59 pm

It seems to me that Mr. Weiss's "special interest" is the community's interest! Do we really need more office space in Palo Alto? More greedy investors? How dull.


Like this comment
Posted by JA3+
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 9, 2011 at 2:01 pm

<... Palo Alto HS is planning to build a brand new performing arts center within the next 5 years or so. It will seat between 400 to 500. With plenty of parking and ease of access, why would you want to spend millions on the Varsity theatre when publicly funded venue will be going in just a half-mile away.

And in the meantime, Stanford is building the new Bing performing arts center right near Frost Amphitheater.>

New PACs at Paly and Stanford provide ample opportunities for performance art, including music.

If Mr. Weiss wishes to compete with these and other venues, he should purchase a theater or, in the alternate, propose the construction of a new one.


Like this comment
Posted by kirstn
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 9, 2011 at 2:24 pm

How about a roller rink? That's what we need. A social gathering place, for low tech amusement. Could cut down on student stress.


Like this comment
Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Sep 9, 2011 at 2:46 pm

A roller rink? Or, how about an indoor jogging path? Or, how about a permanent circus? Or, how about an organic urban farm?

Even the calls for yet another theater. Seriously, Palo Alto has an abundance of cultural opportunities and more are being built. But if you disagree, make the property owner an offer to buy the property and develop it yourselves.

This land owner is within his rights to develop the Borders site within PA planning and zoning constraints....furthermore, he is within his rights to make as much profit as he can while doing so.


Like this comment
Posted by TimH
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 9, 2011 at 4:40 pm

Awhile back, the demise of "Indian Bowl" was resolved by an enlightened office use plan; I think it was/is an architectural firm that may even have some cubicle walls within...the old bowling alley logo was kept on the sidewalk outside as it had always resided. As a venue, the Indian was not as desirable as the Varsity in revisionist history (Borders saved the Varsity, actually) but still showed that Palo Alto businesses are not variants of "Office Space".

If a respected (or Internet) company used the Varsity space, keeping its theatrical style and high ceilings, wouldn't that be an attractive employer and resident? The outer patio area of the Varsity could remain a public venue, but is that a plus; do you really need to have on-demand access to this building? In the downtown area, "public" areas are not always open to all but rather to those who use them excessively and often create a hostile environment for casual use.

As for theaters, thanks to all who posted information regarding the current activities and plans for the city - this shows that there is no need to keep the Varsity property in show business, unless a studio company wishes to set up shop! :)


Like this comment
Posted by JT
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 9, 2011 at 6:00 pm

The city ought to use its power of eminent domain to seize Mr. Keenan's building and turn it back into a movie theater. It has been said that movie theaters don't make money. So there should be a special tax assessed on all residents to fund the theater. Instead of putting the tax to a vote, the city should call it a "fee" and simply impose it on residents.


Like this comment
Posted by Mark WEiss
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 9, 2011 at 6:09 pm

What I actually told Sheyner was that the proposal to put office space in this beloved theatre reminded me of the campaign by (my neighbor) Wallace Stegner, David Brower and ad executives Howard Gossage and Jerry Mander to stop a dam proposal in Grand Canyon, and ran ads that read “SHOULD WE ALSO FLOOD THE SISTEEN CHAPEL TO LET TOURISTS GET NEARER THE CEILING?"

The matter goes to HRB on Oct. 5 which should be an interesting public hearing but people can also write to Council, tell their neighbors, sing protest songs on street corners and all of the above until then and every day. I still feel strongly (and have been heard at this point by city leaders Karen Holman and Sid Espinosa in full – thank you!) that there is a significant public benefit to using theatre for events and that the topic should be discussed in a wider purview than historic resources or architecture which is pretty superficial.

Many people feel that one “special interest” the small group of very wealthy commercial real estate owners – like the man here – has way too much sway in local affairs – like pushing through the $800,000 addition of Development Center funding – so 456 University beyond the actual is symbolic of the average Palo Altans desire or the typical above average Palo Altan as Gary Fazzino would say – we are all well above average – to get what we want. Hey, Council, lead, follow or get out of the way!!!


Like this comment
Posted by FS
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 9, 2011 at 6:20 pm

No fast food emporiums please. The Cheese Cake Factory facade is a real architectural gem!


Like this comment
Posted by Johnny
a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 9, 2011 at 9:43 pm

Convert the Varsity to a new Day Worker Center.


Like this comment
Posted by Finn
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 10, 2011 at 8:43 am

Mr. Weiss, if you truly believe that the Varsity Theater could be economically viable as an entertainment venue, then purchase or lease the property, pay for all of the necessary remodeling and upgrades, and give it a go. It's remarkable how strongly people can feel about a particular issue until they have to take on true ownership and responsibility, especially financial responsibility.


Like this comment
Posted by Why?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 10, 2011 at 9:45 am

> Mr. Weiss, if you truly believe that the Varsity Theater could be
> economically viable as an entertainment venue, then purchase or
> lease the property, pay for all of the necessary remodeling and
> upgrades, and give it a go.

According to the Santa Clara County Assessor's Office, the building and land where the Varsity is located is assessed at a mere $4.7M. The assessed value is always lower than the market value, which can be anything the owner wants it to be. So, Mr. Weiss, there is nothing stopping you from stepping up to the bar, and dropping the necessary greenbacks on the table, and giving your ideas a go .. other than perhaps the necessary greenbacks.


Like this comment
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 10, 2011 at 10:43 am

If we want this building to remain retail, or revert to a theater, then offer the owner something meaningful in return. Recent reports show that University Ave in Palo Alto has the 4th highest commercial rents in the country. Web Link

Perhaps we allow some ten story buildings (with parking). Perhaps we turn Embarcadero east of 101 or Fabian into an economic development zone.

We're competing with SOMA and Mission in San Francisco for the next generation of startups. These companies don't bring in any direct tax revenue, but their employees are our next generation of residents.


Like this comment
Posted by Finn
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 10, 2011 at 11:48 am

Well said Why. A convenient opinion on the part of Mr. Weiss as long as someone else is spending the money. And why won't anyone spend the money? Because the concept and idea won't work. It's a losing proposition. As in the case of the Stanford Theater, your only chance is for a wealthy benefactor with money to burn to step up and cover the cost.


Like this comment
Posted by Why?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 10, 2011 at 11:53 am

> Perhaps we allow some ten story buildings (with parking)

And perhaps not! A ten story building, with a mere ten offices per floor, would add another 100 offices. Assuming twenty employees per office (or some other number if you like), this would add two thousand employees that would need local housing, better roads, more schools, etc. These costs would not be born by any of the developers, but by the property owners who already live here.

Sorry .. demolishing the building and turning it into a park would have fewer financial consequences on all of us.

> We're competing with SOMA and Mission in San Francisco
> for the next generation of startups

Maybe. But there is only so much space here, and start-ups provide nothing of value to the City, in an easily measurable way. From a municipal finance point-of-view, they are all cost, and no profit. There are going to always be more start-ups than can fit into Palo Alto. Admittedly, one start-up (HP) did grow to be a multi-national concern, and has "done Palo Alto proud", but it started in a humble garage without the benefit of any Venture Capital .. so it probably doesn't fit the model for the current bunch that want to "start-up" here.

The fact that University Ave. has such high rental costs is one reason that retail should not be expected to prosper any longer. Or .. maybe it's time to consider a commercial "rent control" measure that would cap rents at a much lower level than they are now.


Like this comment
Posted by Paul Losch
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 10, 2011 at 4:34 pm

Having been a small business owner and a tenant, I am not sure if I understand landlords' motivations too well or not at all.

The notions of "market rates" and "supply and demand" appear to this writer to not be part of commercial real estate managers' vocabulary. To whit:

--A commercial real estate company with which I have had dealings lost a number of tenants due to the economic situation in recent years. When a lease came up for renewal, despite a high vacancy rate, it would attempt to increase the lease price for an existing tenant in an existing property. Numerous tenants walked, and the office and warehouse space sits vacant months and years later.

The leasing company's explanation? It had an obligation to its bondholder or shareholder to dividend a certain amount each month, and conequently had to raise the rent. To make up for the lack of rent due to vacancies caused by a poor business environment on the macro scale, it jacked up rental rates to those who chose to remain (HUH?) at the micro scale. Many walked. My company did.

--Folks who shall remain nameless who own downtown Palo Alto commercial properties do not even have that disingenuous excuse. A great deal of the property that graces our streets has been bought and paid for for decades. Of course they are entitled to a return on their investment.

My beagle is approaching age 13, and there are store fronts that were empty when he and I first did a downtown walk. I could not begin to list the number of retailers of various stripes that have come and gone during these dog years.

Some of these busineses were ephemeral or poorly run. Some were simply overwhelmed by the monthly cost of leasing in Palo Alto.

My point of view is that landlords operating in unique towns like Palo Alto need to account for the "character" of the town as they lease their properties.

Unaffordable lease rates and vacant store fronts do not contribute to the sort of character we Palo Altans think we have.


Like this comment
Posted by Sean
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 10, 2011 at 6:05 pm

There are too many bums in our Downtown, and increasingly on California Ave. Bums kill business. Mountain View has a very good and vibrant Castro St., and it is rare to see a bum there...the cops are tough in MV. Until Palo Alto clears out the bums, our retail zone will continue to go dead.


Like this comment
Posted by Finn
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 10, 2011 at 7:14 pm

Good point Sean. The element of transients, degenerates, and panhandlers does not make downtown PA an appealing destination. So much discussion about retail space and parking, but very few people approach this issue.


Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 10, 2011 at 8:40 pm

The cops have to be tough in Mountain View ... not because they have to get rid of bums ... because bums rarely cause problems except as an eyesore.

I used to live in Mtn. View and go downtown there almost every day, and I just avoid it now. There are large raucous crowds and especially the area where the bars are is a mess, a little like the end of University by Alma or the other bars in Palo Alto.

I have had drunk people in Mountain View harass and call people names or make rude comments to people who were minding their own business. I don't hear bums doing that ever, but I don't make a life study of bums either so maybe I am wrong.

The problem is that there are more younger people in Mountain View and they have a tendency to be more of a problem, and they need police to handle it because it seems that people do not seem to know or care how to behave civilized in public anymore.

A lot of people do not know how to hold a reasonable rational discussion anymore either. As I read through the comments here it seems people are more interested in being smart-asses or abusing others that might disagree with them.

Blunt comments like a property holder has the right to get as much money as they can or want from their property really do not have much informational content as compared with some real experience and information offered by Paul Losch about the real experiences with real estate in Palo Alto.

We are reaping right now in our country, our society, the results of caring only for money and having contempt and disdain for reason or community service or even common consideration, and what passes for a discussion of money and free enterprise is often just a neanderthal grunt or sarcastic comment rather than a thoughtful comment that reminds of informs people of real concerns.


Like this comment
Posted by Palo Alto Mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 10, 2011 at 10:07 pm

It's a big building and we have to be realistic about who would want it. There are plenty of empty spaces already in Palo Alto for both offices and retail. Let there be offices upstairs, but let's try to keep the downstairs area for public use: restaurant, retail, art gallery, something more imaginative... Climbing wall? Bowling? Something active, where people aren't just eating and drinking coffee would be great.

The courtyard is such a nice space, I hope we can save that for public use - and it's very handy to be able to cut through the building from University to Hamilton!


Like this comment
Posted by Rajiv Parikh
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 13, 2011 at 2:04 pm

Given the location and foot traffic, I wouldn't be surprised if this was one of Borders' profitable locations. It would be good if Chop Keenan could let the community know if it was offered to Barnes & Noble and what their response was.


Like this comment
Posted by Eileen Altman
a resident of another community
on Sep 13, 2011 at 3:47 pm

The Rio Theatre in Santa Cruz provides a great example of a former movie theater space converted to a performance venue that seats 680 people -- Web Link. It has become a favorite performance spot for many musicians coming through the area and has been a boon to the restaurants and other businesses in the area. Is there a need for a venue like that in downtown Palo Alto?


Like this comment
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 18, 2011 at 9:40 am

Thanks, Commissioner Paul Losch, for chiming in here. Until there is traction on the issue you allude to, the pejorative and self-serving affect of the real estate cabal that controls about $2 billion in assets downtown -- ten individuals, who control, according to Jim Baer, 60 percent of 4 million square feet -- do the math -- often referred to as The Big Three -- and have created a political vacuum in which council and commissioners rarely get elected or seated while defying them -- and control most likely our local newspapers -- this story, for example, never made the actual paper -- got bumped by a large picture of the admittedly lovely Lisen Stromberg -- citizens and residentials are mired down in frustration then apathy.

If the landlord would give me a 60-day option to buy the cite for its assessed $4.7 million I would absolutely rally friends and family and buy the thing myself, absolutely, wah-hoo-wah!!! But the problem is that he is fast-tracking some thing else, dipping back into the well of hyper-profit and does not want to take that big capital gain yet or ever. I wouldn't bug my wealthier and busier friends on this without a sign -- from the Sphinx, from the Navarrone, from the Wizard of PalOz -- that he would come to the table. And our leaders refuse to take the initiative here to go even that far.

But the plan I've written about, shared with council, worked with staff-sort of, would mean bringing in a world class concert operator like the people who run Yoshi's, The Warfield, Freight and Salvage or The Fillmore -- I have a list of about 40 in that pool of leads -- and not the local guys or "Little Rascals let's put on a show!" scenario. I will probably open a smaller club someday -- what I advocate actually competes with my Earthwise Productions -- who booked shows at Cubberley. I tried to lease the old Art 21 for instance.

By the way, Paul, I am planning to post again on your blog with more Bob Dylan, and Yom Kippur, "blowing in the wind" versus blowing the shofar.


Like this comment
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 18, 2011 at 9:52 am

Thanks Eileen Altman for mentioning the Rio Theatre in Santa Cruz. Show there recently and upcoming with Baaba Mal, Tinariwen, Ryan Adams, Sharon Jones all feature acts that would play the Varsity.
Our vice mayor Yiaway Yeh met his bride to be in Peace Corps in West Africa and is said to be a big fan of Tinariwen.


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​On Friday, September 21, join us at the Palo Alto Baylands for a 5K walk, 5K run, 10K run, or—for the first time—half marathon! All proceeds benefit local nonprofits serving children and families.

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