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Fine Arts building proposed for downtownFine Arts building proposed for downtown

By John GeluardiDaily Planet staff
Friday September 07, 2001

Downtown developer Patrick Kennedy submitted plans last month to develop a five-story, mixed-use building on Shattuck Avenue at the location of the Fine Arts Cinema. 

Kennedy, president of the development company, Panoramic Interests, has proposed a project called the Fine Arts Building at 2471 Shattuck Ave. at Haste Street, which includes a café, movie theater, retail store and 100 residential apartments, 20 of which will be set aside for low-income and very low-income tenants. The 85,000-square-foot project also includes 64 parking spaces. 

“We’d like to make that end of downtown a destination corner,” said Chris Hudson, who will be managing the project for Panoramic Interests. “We expect it will create a synergy between the restaurant and the cinema that will draw more people to the southern end of downtown.” 

The development would require razing of the Fine Arts Cinema, a 275-seat alternative theater, which has operated at the site since 1997. Two adjacent buildings, one occupied by an annex office of Youth Radio and the other vacant, will also be demolished. 

The Fine Art Cinema, operated by partners Keith Arnold, Josephine Scherer and Emily Charles, is a small theater that presents a variety of art house and “community-based” films.  

Kennedy has offered to lease the new theater space back to Fine Arts Cinema once the project is completed, although there is no official agreement yet. 

“We have to sit down and deal with all the minutia, but the economics of the deal are fairly well defined,” Kennedy said. “The important thing is the chemistry and we really like what Keith, Josephine and Emily are doing there.” 

Arnold said the Fine Arts Theater has developed a good following since it opened, but nonetheless the owners are looking forward to reopening in the new theater. 

“We like the idea of the café and that the theater will be outfitted with state-of-the-art technology,” he said. “We’re excited about development in this area.” 

Arnold said the Fine Arts Cinema will continue to present films at a variety of Bay Area locations while the project is under construction. 

According to city Planning Manager Mark Rhodes, the project will be considered by the Design Review Committee within the next two months and, because the project includes the total demolition of three buildings over 40 years old, the plans will have to get a stamp of approval from the Landmarks Preservation Commission before going to the Zoning Adjustments Board for a use permit. 

Rhodes added that the art deco-styled project was designed by prominent architect Dan Solomon of Solomon Architecture and Urban Design, who is known for his work on the Strategic Downtown Plan in Los Angeles, the Downtown Revitalization Program and Civic Center in Hayward and the Bauer Schweitzer Historical site in San Francisco.  

If the building is approved, it will be Kennedy’s sixth multistoried building that has been completed or is currently under construction in the downtown area. Some other Kennedy downtown projects include the Gaia Cultural Center on Allston Way, the ARTech Building on Milvia Street and the Shattuck Avenue Lofts on Shattuck Avenue. 

The design of the Fine Arts Building is similar in use to other Kennedy developments in the downtown area. Typically, Panoramic specializes in multistoried, mixed-use and mixed-income developments. 

Kennedy said he has faced stiff opposition to some of his projects in the past, but did not expect much difficulty with this project. 

“We’re hopeful it will go smoothly, we aren’t asking for a density bonus or any variances,” he said. “Besides it will make possible the continuation of the last remaining repertory theater in Berkeley and everybody wants that.”