Many Moragans – and others – say they want to keep the landmark Rheem Theatre in place and doing what it does best. The owner of the property says it was not financially prudent to keep the faded Neon Queen open, and has closed the theatre “temporarily.”
But, as developers and property owners seek new and creative ways to bring their projects to fruition in towns and cities where they may not have always been welcomed, a “something-for-something” deal is being forged in Rheem – and is up for initial consideration this week.
In this instance the Golden Carrot being offered by property owner Mahesh Puri is the Theatre itself, with Puri and town leaders considering a plan calling for him to transfer ownership of the Rheem back to the town in exchange for permission to build – wait for it – a 4-story, 48-unit (plus two commercial spaces) apartment building feet away in a currently scrubby lot across the alley from the theatre.
Still in its preliminary stages, the deal so far has been met with a fairly positive reaction, with civic officials writing:
“The town expresses its willingness to amend zoning regulations and the general plan for an adjacent empty lot between the theater and town hall, in exchange for the theater owner transferring ownership of the theater property to the Moraga Community Foundation.”
We’re fairly certain we can plot local reaction to this most recent effort to “Save the Theatre,” and we’ll be watching to see what the locals say. We would expect some (many?) to welcome the arrival of a potential consumer and commercial base in Rheem, while others to decry the scope of the project and the potential impacts that many more people will have on one of the town’s most significant commercial crossroads.
What do you think? Going to put a deposit down on a future downtown pied-à-terre? Or is this just the latest in a series of controversial land swaps and developments to come into focus as available land dries up here and elsewhere in the 24/680?