Oakland, take note: The Parkway is back. The Express received confirmation from The New Parkway’s J. Moses Ceaser this morning that after more than a year of searching for a place to reopen Oakland’s beloved theater pub, at 2:30 this afternoon he will sign a lease for a new location in the Uptown Art Murmur district. The announcement comes not a day too soon; today is the last business day before Ceaser would have had to return hundreds of thousands of dollars in start-up funds contributed by more than one thousand investors for the endeavor, according to an agreement reached earlier this month.
The theater’s new location will be at 474 24th Street, a 7,800-square-foot former sheet-glass factory currently used for special events. It is located around the corner from The Stork Club and Koreana Plaza. Landlord (and former Parkway patron) Matthew Iglehart also owns a number of other properties in the area including the spaces occupied by Vessel Gallery, Mercury 20 Gallery, and Two Mile Wines a block away on 25th Street.
“They came to us and said they would love the Parkway there, which would fit with their idea of doing an arts district,” Ceaser said. “He said ‘Whatever we can do to get the Parkway there we would love to make happen.’ He’s really the first one who has done that.” The lease has a 21-year term and is valued at approximately $8,000 a month, a couple grand less than Ceaser was prepared to spend at a more prominent location.
From the outside, the boxy warehouse is nondescript and, as it stands now, a tad uninviting. Unlike 25th Street, 24th Street is devoid of casual foot traffic and other art institutions. Current neighbors include an adult video store five storefronts away at Telegraph Avenue and a large mid-century apartment complex one door to the east. “I think it will create some challenges for us,” Ceaser said. “I’m knocking down the attendance figures, knowing that it won’t have the facade some of the other places did.”
Still, he promises that the inside of the warehouse, while about 2,500 square feet smaller than what he would’ve liked, will meet the Parkway’s needs. He plans on investing around $600,000 to $700,000 in capital improvements and another $700,000 or so in assorted start-up costs, with an end goal of creating a two-screen theater modeled, at least in spirit, on the original Parkway Theater at 1834 Park Boulevard. Opening day should be sometime next summer or fall. The theater's two screening rooms will be able to seat about 240 people total, Ceaser said, and will be accompanied by a cafe/bar area with seating for twenty to thirty and a “good-size kitchen” for preparing pizzas and a wide range of other foods that patrons can bring into the theater and enjoy during films, just as at the old Parkway.
“When it came to a choice between this and no Parkway, the choice was clear,” Ceaser said. “I’m very thankful that it looks like we have something in place, especially because earlier this month I said we had a 20 percent chance of getting something done. … I think people are going to very excited when this comes to pass.”
For more on the history of the Parkway saga, read our June 2009 feature on the closure of the original Parkway Speakeasy theater, our December 2010 article on Ceaser’s doomed efforts to reopen the theater at the same location, our September 2011 article on another Uptown location that ultimately fell through, and a bevy of blog posts in between.