If you've been following the Parkway saga, you know how it's been: confusion, miscommunication, frustration. And that's just in the last few months. J. Moses Ceaser, the Oakland entrepreneur who's become a bit of a local hero for his tireless efforts to reopen the Parkway Theater since late last year, told us last week that his working relationship with theater owner Yan Cheng had yet to improve. In fact, at this point it seems to have all but ended — before it ever really had a chance to begin.
"We hadn’t heard anything from him during the month of January outside of one meeting," Ceaser said. Then, on January 31, the date Ceaser had set as his deadline for a lease, Cheng, who could not be reached for comment, reappeared and told Ceaser all that needed to be decided upon was a price. According to Ceaser, Cheng requested a $9,000 triple net lease — meaning the lessee, in this case The New Parkway, pays rent to the lessor, as well as all taxes, insurance, and maintenance expenses that arise from the use of the property.
However, as early as last November, Ceaser had made it clear to Cheng that the most he could pay was $7,000 a month, he said. That's one to three thousand more than Rialto Cinemas pays to lease the similar-sized Cerrito Theater in El Cerrito, Ceaser said, and they didn't have to put any repair money into the already renovated building. On top of his $7,000 triple-net lease, Cesar was prepared to put another approximately $200,000 into the theater. His enterprise has already raised more than $400,000 from investors interested in seeing the Parkway model restored.
After Ceaser reiterated his best and final offer in late January, Cheng again demured. “He replied back and said, ‘I decline your offer. If you want to send me a better offer, please do,'" Ceaser said. Now Parkway advocacy group I Like the Parkway is said to be making one final effort to reach a compromise with Cheng. Likewise, the city is in the midst of completing a report that will help it determine if it wants to invest money in the building's rehabilitation. Ceaser's not so sure that's a good idea: “I think it would just be rewarding Mr. Cheng’s bad behavior," he said.
In the meantime, he's got his sights set elsewhere, including the former Omni Nightclub in Temescal at 4799 Shattuck Avenue — where he's engaged in ongoing talks with the owners and has received significant community support — as well as a number of spots in the Uptown/Broadway Auto Row area.