Ex-theater site has potential in San Bruno

A storied former theater standing guard at the gateway to downtown is slated for redevelopment into condominiums and retail space, part of continuing efforts to inject more pizazz into the city’s core.

Developer Golden Harvest LLC submitted an application last month to demolish and develop the property, Community Development Director Aaron Aknin said.

The remodeled theater space — a formidably tall building located at 447 San Mateo Ave. at El Camino Real — is nearly empty, with only one tenant left to vacate. The theater was divided into office space and held a number of local tenants over the years, including a barbershop, stereo shop and a number of different retail spots, Aknin said.

Golden Harvest, which has never developed a property in San Bruno, has also purchased three, now empty, former bar properties including the Rio Saloon. The acquisition of these empty or near-empty properties is welcome news for city officials who have been saying for years that revitalizing downtown was a priority.

Councilman Jim Ruane said news of the pending theater development dovetails with desire to give downtown and El Camino Real a more uniform appearance. Discussions continue on how to craft an overall blueprint for development with a downtown precise plan, the broadest effort to attract the types of development officials are looking for. The theater development is one such project, the first in what Aknin said he hopes is a continued trend.

“This is a critical building for downtown,” Aknin said. “Delivering quality developments may attract other quality developments.”

Aknin expects a complete application from the developer within the next couple of months, after which a Planning Commission review can be scheduled.

El Camino Theater opened in 1930, replacing an earlier theater that played silent films, according to the San Mateo County History Museum. The theater closed in the 1970s after a small movie operation opened up at Tanforan Shopping Center.

A number of theaters from the 20th century are being redeveloped into more marketable projects along the Peninsula. El Camino Theater joins the SeaVue Twin Theater in Pacifica — on its way to becoming a Walgreens drugstore — and the Fox Peninsula Theatre, which is now home to the Fox Mall shops.

tramroop@examiner.com

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