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April 10, 2007 > And ... ACTION!

And ... ACTION!

By Charlotte Flowers- Weston

For a long time, the idea of an upscale, family-friendly, Hayward downtown area has been little more than a gleam in the eye of city planners. This vision has been fueled by the dreams of downtown merchants and politicians, eager to remind one and all that Hayward is "The Heart of the Bay." By the end of this month, construction will finally begin on a big piece of those dreams as Cinema Place plaza becomes a reality.

Anchored by a 12-screen multiplex theatre, the project envisions two stories of retail and restaurant space, approximately 21,000 square feet in area. Parking demands will be accommodated by a 244-space parking garage that is nearing completion. All of this will be located southwest of the intersection of Foothill Boulevard and B Street, on land owned by Hayward's Redevelopment Agency (RDA).

RDA has partnered with Blake-Hunt Ventures, of Danville, to develop the Hayward Cinema Place project. An agreement originally signed in 2004 quickly encountered a series of stumbling blocks on its way to what all involved promised would be the "final, final revisions and modifications." City council unanimously approved those revisions and additional expenditures at a regularly-scheduled meeting, Tuesday, March 27.

The biggest challenge arose when Blake-Hunt reported in 2006, that Century Theatres was purchased by Cinemark Theatres. The purchase nullified Cinema Place's lease with Century. All plans came to a screeching halt until the lease could be renegotiated; something that could not begin until completion of the takeover.

Meanwhile, construction costs increased above original projections by about twenty-eight percent. Present estimates call for total costs of $15.85 million, which includes $12.9 million in actual construction costs.

On March 27, city leaders approved spending an additional $1.5 million dollars of RDA money; revisions to certain revenue-sharing thresholds; and waiving about $135,000 in city building fees; all at the developer's request.

The agency's goal is to construct a pedestrian-oriented entertainment venue for the eastern end of the historic downtown area. This includes seven, separate, street-level spaces for restaurants and shops, plus upper level space and deck area for a larger restaurant.

Downtown merchant interest has been high, and the project has already prompted several other property owners in the area to improve their buildings.

During the March 27 discussions, City Manager Jesus Armas singled out the exceptional commitment of Hayward Redevelopment Director Maret Bartlett in bringing this project to fruition. Bartlett says, "We anticipate construction to begin by the end of April."

Developers expect the retail spaces will be completed in about 14 months. It is projected that Hayward Cinema Place shops and restaurants will open for business beginning in mid-2008. The theatre should be online by fall. The new parking garage is scheduled to be completed this June and will be available for use by the public.

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