Ex-resident Strives To Save Lorenzo Theatre
The Daily Review
Tuesday, November 24, 1998
By Carol E. Robinson - Staff Writer
SAN LORENZO -- Larry Leal is on a quixotic quest. The former San Lorenzo resident wants to save the 51-year-old Lorenzo Theatre and turn it into "a family-oriented multi-functional facility." And he's seeking the community's help.
Leal, who lives in Salida near Modesto, recently formed the Lorenzo Theater Association, a nonprofit organization whose goal is to restore the building to its former greatness. The association's first meeting will be at 7 p.m. Feb. 3 at the San Lorenzo Village Homes Association community auditorium, 377 Paseo Grande, San Lorenzo.
So far, Leal has done the preliminary groundwork. He also has assembled a six-person steering committee, including an architect, an attorney, a Newark school district administrator, an artist and Alameda County Planning Commissioner Audrey LePell, who represents the unincorporated Cherryland area.
"What we want to do is to acquire the theater," Leal said Monday. "The way to do that is to create a nonprofit organization. That way, we can solicit grants and other donations."
The Lorenzo Theater has been closed since 1982. In past years, owner Ashok Parmar has announced plans to turn the building into a three-screen theater. Others had wanted to convert the theater into everything from an international food bazaar to a teen recreation center to a microbrewery.
The building has a "for sale" sign in front. Carl Walia of ERA Realty in Union City said the property, which has been up for sale for 1 years, has a selling price of $399,000.
So far, a group from Los Angeles expressed interest three weeks ago in buying it and turning it into a movie theatre and restaurant, Walia said. Leal -- who grew up in San Lorenzo and graduated in 1972 from Arroyo High School -- recalled the Lorenzo Theatre as "a special place." The building has art deco-style murals inside and seats more than 700. "People would like to see something done with it," he said. "I would love to see this thing come back. I'd love to give something back to the community I grew up in."
Supervisor Gail Steele, who represents San Lorenzo, praised Leal for his enthusiasm and optimism but questioned the feasibility of bringing back the Lorenzo.
"It's a very expensive (idea)," Steele said. "(The owner is) asking for $400,000 for it. Then there's a couple hundred thousand dollars in rehabilitating the thing.
"I think it's a great idea what he wants to do. But we're a long way (from it) because this guy (Parmok) was unwilling to paint it."
Leal said it would take an estimated $2 million to $3 million to buy and renovate the theatre, including removing asbestos, getting the building up to fire code, renovating the roof and painting the interior and exterior.
The San Lorenzo Village Homes Association Business Development survey of 1,950 respondents released in October revealed that 54 percent would like to see the Lorenzo Theatre converted into a family-oriented multi-purpose facility. Another 37 percent aren't sure. Sixty-two percent of those surveyed indicated they may consider contributing time and money to this effort.