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Report from Friends of the Cerrito Theater: Redevelopment Agency votes funds to restore historic building

By Ann Lehman & Dianne Brenner, Co-Chairs of the Friends of the Cerrito Theater,

The Friends of Cerrito Theater are thrilled that the El Cerrito Redevelopment Agency voted January 20, 2004 to use its funds to restore the historic El Cerrito building. El Cerrito joins a host of other cities which have chosen to provide its citizens with small extraordinary theaters when the free market will not do so (Fox Theater, San Jose; Fox Theater, Stockton; Del Mar Theater, Santa Cruz; Fox Theater, Oakland; Roseville Theater, Roseville). The restored theater building and marquee will put the THERE there in El Cerrito.

El Cerrito is moving into a new phase of redevelopment, as evidenced by recently upgraded public parks, the newly renovated swimming pool, street landscaping in the area, znd restored creeks, and we are all delighted to be a part of it. We feel strongly that this project will continue the economic revitalization of this area that started with the El Cerrito Plaza renovations. Movies and other programs will attract both El Cerrito residents and residents from surrounding areas, who will also spend money in local businesses and restaurants. The following are quotes from citizens who wrote recently to the Agency in support of the theater:

* "The Cerrito Theater could well be the spark that revitalizes the area around it."
* "It will be a destination point when we are shopping."
* "This theater project seems like a unique opportunity. To develop both the economic and financial heart of this community, I can't think of a better move."
• "I would love to be able to walk to the theater to see a movie, I currently spend all my entertainment money and dinner dollars outside of El Cerrito.”

But an equally compelling piece of the economic benefit is the building of community pride. Creating, through a community partnership between the City and its residents, a place where folks can meet and connect is not something easily quantifiable but a critically important part of the benefit this project generates. The energy and excitement felt by all who attend the open house is immeasurable but was undeniable to anyone who attended. A never before seen crowd of 3,000 folks attended to witness the start of something new and vital. From seniors to the very young, with tears of memories of bygone days or excitement about the future, the feelings of connection and community were palpable that day. Here are a few more comments written to the Agency in support of the theater:

* "What makes a city a desired place to live is its unique identity and the El Cerrito Theater provides the city with this opportunity."
* "The theater, as proposed, could become a source of community and civic pride."
* "El Cerrito needs a place where its citizens can meet and mingle"
• "The Cerrito Theater represents a golden opportunity in El Cerrito not only to actively revitalize a potential treasure, but also to utilize one of its foremost landmarks and make a tremendous asset to the East Bay."

Recently over one hundred Friends of the Cerrito Theater, from our membership of 900, came together on a cold and rainy night last December to brainstorm ideas for helping the city with this project. The eleven-member Friends of the Cerrito Theater steering committee, made up of El Cerrito business members, Economic Development Board members, fundraisers, journalists, movie buffs, historical building specialists, nonprofit consultants, and volunteers, has joined together to begin the fundraising and community building effort. Our mission is “to develop support for restoring and preserving the historic Art Deco character of the Cerrito Theater, to build community and enhance the cultural life of the surrounding area." If you wish to join with us in these efforts, see our website http://www.cerritotheater.org. You can also reach us at Friends of Cerrito Theater, 3020 El Cerrito Plaza, #402, El Cerrito, CA 94530, info@cerritotheater.org. or call 527-5724
Run dates: 2004-01-25 - 2004-02-08

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