After the success of recent fund-raising efforts, they’ve got money. They’ve got friends in high places within Oakland’s City Council and Redevelopment Agency. They’ve got business acumen, unparalleled community support, and months of negotiations and planning under their belt. But there’s one thing J. Moses Ceaser and his The New Parkway partners still lack in their quest to reopen the celebrated theater on Park Boulevard: a lease.
Communications between Ceaser and landlord Yan Cheng have come to a standstill in recent weeks, Ceaser said yesterday. That doesn’t necessarily mean the deal itself is in jeopardy; Ceaser said Cheng has been looking into obtaining financial support from the city and Redevelopment Agency in order to complete tenant improvements such as electrical, plumbing, roof, and other safety- and code-related repairs needed to reopen the run-down building. Still, a letter of intent and two proposals for different lease frameworks from The New Parkway expire today and have yet to receive a formal response, Ceaser said. “He’s gone pretty silent. … I’m a little bit surprised that we haven’t had correspondence from him.”
Cheng has declined to comment on any negotiations until an agreement is reached. In an email exchange in late November, he said only that he is “actively seeking qualified tenants to reopen the theater” and that his family is “eager to bring back the Parkway Theater to the community.”
Thanks to a highly effective Kickstarter campaign and continued interest from equity investors, The New Parkway has raised all but $50,000 of the $400,000 it anticipates it’ll need to reopen the Parkway. Ceaser said he expects to meet the funding goal by the end of the year. However, if his organization doesn’t have a lease with Cheng in hand by January 1, he said, he’ll reopen the search for a new venue in hopes of sticking to the original timeline of opening by early summer. The New Parkway team has also looked at spaces in the Downtown, Uptown, and Temescal neighborhoods, including the former Club Omni at 4799 Shattuck Avenue. “The sentiment among the folks behind this project is, ‘We wanna reopen this theater, and we need a space to make that happen,’” Ceaser said. “Our waiting time is finite.”