Theater eyed for housing, market

Developer working with S.F. to tear down old Galaxy in Van Ness corridor for project

The old Galaxy Theater on Van Ness Avenue has gone through its share of changes in its 22-year history.

The movie house, once a popular place to watch the latest offerings from Hollywood, turned its attention to foreign and independent films in a last-ditch effort to keep its doors open. Losing money, the theater closed its doors in December 2005 and is now being eyed by developers to undergo a transformation into a new mixed-use building with a grocery store as its centerpiece.

Bay Rock Residential is working with The City to tear down the boarded-up theater, which has become a hangout for the homeless and a canvas for aspiring graffiti artists. The developer wants to construct 107 residential condominiums on top of 15,500 square feet of retail space dedicated to a grocery store, according to Marilyn Ponte with Bay Rock Residential.

“We are still in the process, and right now we are still wrapping up our design plans,” she said. “[But], we hope to be on the Planning Commission by the end of the year.”

Bringing a supermarket to the neighborhood is a popular idea, according to Jordanna Thigpen, who lives near the site, especially with big chains such as Albertsons and Cala Foods having closed locations in The City in the past year. Dan Diez, who also lives in the neighborhood, said he was sad to see the theater close, but residents would love to see a grocery store open at the site.

“I really think we need a grocery store around Polk Street,” he said. “If it is a decent grocery store, I think that would be very good for the community.”

There are no full-service grocers that residents can go to in the Tenderloin, which abuts Van Ness Avenue, or in the Polk Street corridor, according to Thigpen. A Whole Foods market four blocks from the Galaxy Theater on California and Franklin streets is the closest supermarket. But, the store, often jokingly referred to as “Whole Paycheck,” is too expensive, according to someresidents.

Ponte said she could not comment on what grocery store might fill the space, but the commercial use is reserved for a market. Bay Rock Residential presented the project to residents six months ago, according to Ponte. Diez, who is also the chairman of the Lower Polk Neighbors Association, said that because the presentation did not get into which retailer would be coming into the space and how traffic issues would be dealt with, it was hard to gauge the community’s reaction. Ponte said she plans to meet with neighbors again as her company moves forward with the project.

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