Hopeful rebirth for the San Lorenzo Theatre
Our Opinion - The Daily Review - 5/31/01
THREE years ago, the Lorenzo Theater faced an uncertain future.
The run-down art deco building on Hesperian Boulevard at Via Mercado desperately needed an owner, a serious face lift and, most of all, a purpose in life. Community activists who wanted to restore the theater as a visual and performing arts center were at odds with a Fremont veterinarian who wanted to use the building as an animal clinic -- a use we felt didn't fit well with the community's plans for the area. Veterinarian Dharam Salwan, frustrated by community opposition and the county's rightfully stringent remodeling requirements, bowed out. A Fremont church was briefly interested in buying the building and holding services there but also gave up. It seemed the Lorenzo was doomed to be a boarded-up reminder of better days. But because people cared enough to work out their differences, the theater story may have a happier ending.
Salwan returned to the scene late last fall. Perhaps wiser from his brush with community politics, he agreed to buy the Lorenzo and allow it to be used for movies and theater performances. He even spoke at a meeting of theater supporters, and is heading an advisory committee to help plan the building's future.
Salwan and theater boosters should be commended for deciding to work together for the theater, which could be an anchor in San Lorenzo's efforts to redevelop the nearby Village Square and Lorenzo Plaza shopping areas. The fact that Salwan's professional integrity came under attack during his first purchase effort makes his current cooperation even more noteworthy.
His willingness to forget the past and put his personal business goals aside are admirable. We thank him for this because we believe it will be better for the whole of San Lorenzo. Theater supporters are now busy cleaning up the theater, and the Lorenzo Theater Foundation signed a three-month lease with Salwan. This means the nonprofit foundation can give public tours and use the marquee to advertise upcoming events. Ultimately, the foundation hopes to somehow acquire the building. We support the group's efforts because it would ensure that it will always be used as a public performing arts center. We also commend the board for expanding from nine to 13 members and for trying to get representation from the San Lorenzo Village Homes Association, the Bohannon Organization, the major property owner in the area, and the county Board of Supervisors.
This shows the group wants to involve the broader community.
As foundation spokeswoman Nancy Shelvy points out, the lease marks the first time the group has really had its "hands" on the theater and symbolizes a step forward in the efforts to save it.
We recommend dropping by the Third Annual Village Fair on June 16 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the corner of Paseo Grande and Hesperian. You can tour the theater and enjoy the rest of the best food, music, arts and crafts that San Lorenzo has to offer.