An Ultimatum for the Parkway Theater

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The last few months have been quiet in Parkway land, though not for lack of trying. J. Moses Ceaser, who’s been promising a reopened theater since late 2010, said discussions with the theater’s owners have become so frustrating that he’s issuing an ultimatum: Sign our lease by Friday, July 15, or we’re outta here.

For those keeping track at home, this is at least Ceaser’s second such deadline, the first being January 31. Owner Yan Cheng made that deadline with a few hours to spare after assuring Ceaser he was ready to move as soon as a price could be agreed upon, but negotiations have fizzled and sputtered since then.

“We are eager to re-open the theater but have faced unnecessary challenges tied to communication, quality of work, and timely follow-through,” Ceaser wrote in a letter to the Cheng family this weekend announcing the ultimatum. “After being at it for months, we're still struggling to resolve issues that should have been addressed months ago, and we have no sense that we'll be able to iron out a lease with you in the near future if we remain on our current path.”

“The pace and efficacy of negotiations is not working for us and we've decided that, as of 5PM on Friday, July 15th, we will halt all negotiations with Ming Wa, LLC,” Ceaser continued. “If we don't have a signed lease in place by that time, we will find a different Oakland home for The New Parkway.”

Previous alternative locations — including the former Omni Nightclub in Temescal and a former automobile showroom on Broadway in Uptown — have evaporated as well, but Ceaser’s organization, The New Parkway, has a new backup: a private investor who has offered to purchase a building for the new theater and serve as a landlord. The new partners are currently considering a number of sites along Broadway in Uptown.

Ceaser isn’t particularly confident his ultimatum will change the course of negotiations at the former Parkway Theater. Nor is he sure he wants it to. “I'm torn, since I know that it's a hornet's nest, but at least the most affordable option with a built-in following,” he wrote in an email. Based on the track record of the past few years since the original Parkway closed in 2008, if the owners don’t take Ceaser’s offer, the building could continue to sit vacant for years to come, jeopardizing nearly a million dollars in renovation support from the Oakland Redevlopment Agency and the Oakland Business Development Corporation while forestalling the long-anticipated rebirth of the Eastlake neighborhood.

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