Two years after the iconic building was sold at auction on the steps of City Hall, development and restoration plans for Ingleside’s historic El Rey movie palace were revealed to the public.
At the Ocean Avenue Association and the Ingleside Terrace Homes Association meetings in September, building owners Urbano Esquerro and Victor Quan along with project architect John Goldman presented a vision for restoring the Art Deco theater and its storefronts financed by building housing on its small parking lots.
Quan and Ezquerro presented development plans to the Ingleside Terrace Homes Association on Thursday, Sept. 20 as part of their plan to engage the community and collect feedback before submitting their vision to the Planning Department in late October.
The proposal calls for 18 units of housing to be built on each of the site’s parking lots and three units on each wing of its storefronts for a total of 42 units. There will be two 11-vehicle underground parking garages with entrances on Fairfield and Lakewood streets.
The units would comprise of a mix of one- and two-bedroom homes, and a few three-bedroom homes. Eighteen to 20 percent of the units would be available at below-market rate housing prices.
The theater and storefronts will be restored to their original state, Esquerro said, but it is unknown what will occupy them.
“We don’t really have an idea what it’s going to be,” Esquerro said. “Theaters have been closing up. If it comes to the worst, it can become multi-use for different things; sometimes a show, maybe sometimes a comedian, a speaker, or maybe for the neighbors or from town.”
Esquerro stressed that the plans focus on minimizing potential negative effects on neighbors that could stem from the additional units. He said that, by having the heights of adjacent buildings steadily decline, the new housing units could avoid casting neighbors’ houses into shadows.
“What I like so far that I see is that we’re not getting big, tall buildings,” ITHA Board Secretary Sandy Gandolfo said.
Built in 1931, the historic El Rey theater complex was a movie theater and later housed the first Gap clothing store. In the 1970s, it was sold to Voice of Pentecost and operated as a church and school for 39 years.
The church defaulted on its mortgage, and the bank auctioned off the building. Greenpoint Land Company and Ricci Ventures LLC bought the property for $1.06 million.
The Ocean Avenue Association led the charge to landmark the building to protect its character, successfully raising more than $10,000 to hire consultants and shepard the building through the historic landmark designation process. [Disclosure: Ingleside-Excelsior Light Publisher and Editor Alexander Mullaney is the chair of the Ocean Avenue Association’s Board of Directors.]
“We need to build houses in order to do this,” Esquerro said. “Because it’s not feasible [otherwise]. It’s a lot of money. Just to build the stairs in there to get to the roof of the tower is almost $120,000.”
Another presentation will be held at the Mount Davidson Manor Homes Association in October.