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Exclusive Photos: Ground Has Broken on Strand Theater Renovation

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The American Conservatory Theater celebrated breaking ground yesterday on their revival of Market Street's Strand Theater. Mayor Ed Lee and Senator Mark Leno joined A.C.T. and the project's architects, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP. A.C.T. bought the building in early 2012, and have raised $19 million to date—via a capital campaign and a healthy dose of tax credits—to fund the renovation. The re-opening of the Strand Theater is a central part of the revitalization of Mid-Market currently underway with 40 projects and counting. Lest you think of crediting the movement to Twitter's move to the neighborhood, Mayor Lee ceremoniously declared: "It wasn't Twitter that revitalized Market Street. It began with arts organizations, grassroots arts organizations taking the risk."

But far from dismissing the tech industry's role in the Mid-Market renaissance, the mayor encouraged a partnership between technology and the arts. "We talk a lot about technology in this city. Technology cannot live without the arts. And vice versa." Taking it a step further—so that there could be no misunderstanding of his encouragement—he said: "Every company that exists in the city of San Francisco would love to have their name associated with this theater."

Originally opened as a vaudeville theater and cinema, the Strand Theater is nearly 100 years old. It's been vacant since 2003, when it was sealed by SFPD. Squatters took up residence in the intervening years, and some of their graffiti—including an oversized "Junkies For Life" scrawl—will be preserved by A.C.T. to honor the history of the space.

The new theater, by contrast, will feature two performance spaces and a street-level cafe. The main space will be a 300-seat formal theater that can be "quickly transformed into an informal cabaret with tables and chair," as described by SOM's design director and lead architect on the project, Michael Duncan. Upstairs, there will be a smaller black box theater for flexible use, with soundproofing that will allow different events to happen simultaneously.

The architects say that 70% of the original building's facade will be preserved, and that the new spaces will be "inserted into [its] shell." The renovation will also include seismic upgrades and will cover 20,000 square feet in total.

Opening season is scheduled for Spring of 2015.
· Here Now, a Map of 26 Mid-Market Revitalization Projects [Curbed SF]
· Market Street's Strand Theater Gets a New Life [Curbed SF]

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