The New Mission Theater is on track to become a new Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas, but first the Historic Preservation Commission will review the project today since the building is a local landmark. The theater has been languishing on Mission Street for what seems like forever, sitting empty since 2003 and the victim to vandalism - most notoriously a 300-person rave in 2006 that caused major damage. Plans for the new theater include five screens and 900 seats courtesy of the Texas-based theater developer, with the company's founder promising a "full and complete historic preservation" for the venue to play classic, indie and foreign films. It'll take a lot of work - including restoration of the marquee and blade sign, a seismic retrofit, subdivision of the main auditorium into five screens, extension of the historic balcony, reconstruction of the historic lobby, conversion of the projection booth into a bar (that sounds rad!), and repair of all the decorative plasterwork throughout. Phew, that's a lot. Originally built in 1910, it was renovated a few years later by theater powerhouses the Reid Brothers with a whole slew of Neo-Classical details. Then in 1932 Art Deco master Timothy Pflueger renovated the lobby and Mission Street façade. The theater closed in 1993, and along with the neighboring building, was bought by City College for a new campus in 1998. After a load of community outrage over CCSF's plans, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2001 (and later as a city landmark in 2004). The preservation alternatives that have saved the theater were deemed too pricey for CCSF, so instead they sold the property to infamous Gus Murad & Associates in 2003. Murad has been trying ever since to get approval for a larger project that couples the theater reno with construction of an eight-floor residential building on the neighboring Giant Value lot that was the impetus for a major political brouhaha over extra height allowances a few years ago. By 2011, the two properties were put up for sale separately, and Alamo Drafthouse is in contract to buy the theater.
The new Alamo Drafthouse project will cut up the main theater auditorium space into smaller theaters, which makes preservationists a little uneasy, but according to the company smaller theaters help make the whole thing economically feasible. Planning Department staff seem pretty OK with the plans, recommending the HPC approve the landmark building-parts of the project with some conditions like a salvage and documentation plan and mock-ups for restorations before they get their permits. It'll still head to the Planning Commission to get the other approvals it needs (authorization for a Formula Retail Use) tentatively scheduled for January 10.
· Certificate of Appropriateness Case Report - New Mission Theater [SF Planning]
· Previous Coverage of the New Mission Theater [Curbed SF archives]
· New Mission Theater Timeline [Friends of 1800]