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Park Theatre plans take shape in Menlo Park

Original post made on Dec 21, 2012

The peeling façade of the long-vacant Park Theatre may give way to a mix of office space and retail, according to owner Howard Crittenden.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, December 21, 2012, 10:24 AM

Comments (15)

Posted by Enough, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Dec 21, 2012 at 11:23 am

Crud. Don't need more office space. Would love a theater.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 21, 2012 at 11:41 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

A little careful thinking is required here. Knee jerk reactions are counter productive.

The existing theatre with 300+ seats and virtually no parking would generate over 100 trips per day. Other uses would require on site parking and would generate far fewer trips per day.


Posted by Menlo resident, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 21, 2012 at 12:53 pm

It is important that whatever type of development will be permissable at that location should require sufficient underground and surface parking to accommodate the cars of its employees and clients.
Additionally, any parking on the El Camino front side should be eliminated. It is time to make serious efforts to obtain another lane along El Camino that would help alleviate the bottle neck that occurs along the two lane strip. Doin so would not eliminate many parking spaces (there are very few involved) but it would add to the safety and smoother flow of traffic. Pedestrians (not many of these either) would continue to use the existing sidewalk.


Posted by Sam Sinnott, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 21, 2012 at 12:54 pm

The theater has 700 seats and is a seismic hazard. It is a dinosaur with very little historic value. The details inside are mostly painted on.

I am very happy that Mr. Crittenden is finally able to improve his property and the City.


Posted by Frugal, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 21, 2012 at 1:16 pm

Mr Crittenden should be ashamed of himself for letting that eye-sore sit like that all these years. By the way, where's the nice old sign that was taking down in the middle of the night.


Posted by Jay Gertridge, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Dec 21, 2012 at 2:05 pm

Regarding the "dinosaur" reference by Sam Sinnott, as a youngster in the '60s I spent many a wonderful Saturday afternoon in the Park Theater. In the 80's I (and Sam) spent many a wonderful Friday & Saturday night in the BBC - but I don't remember him worrying about any earthquake hazard in that old brick building.
WhileI don't expect the building to be refurbished as a theater, the historic neon sign that used to grace the facade should be put back up. Just last month, I ran into my old, childhood friend, Sandy Crittenton, and he assured me that he still has the sign. Perhaps erecting the Park sign will once again proudly welcome out-of-towers into Menlo Park - before they realize the horrid bottleneck we provide them in our short stretch of El Camino Real.


Posted by whatever, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 21, 2012 at 4:34 pm

Right on Jay. In its day it was a good theatre. Saw my first James Bond movie at the Park and Lawrence of Arabia. The old Park neon sign would be a great welcome to MP from the north.

And Peter how about a positive comment/reply once in a while w/o the vindictiveness.


Posted by Steve, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 22, 2012 at 8:44 am

Peter positive on anything besides the Fire Department. Surely you jest. Best lol all day


Posted by Gary Lee Parks, a resident of another community
on Dec 22, 2012 at 7:44 pm

It is good to see some sort of plan moving ahead. It is also nice to know that the sign, which was removed early one Sunday morning soon after the theatre closed, is still in existence. Though I am a movie theatre architectural historian, I am perfectly and willingly aware that the Park's days as a movie theatre are clearly over. It would make no economic sense to have it be a theatre again. It could not survive in today's exhibition marketplace. I am hopeful though, that the facade and a relit sign can serve as a festive beacon to that stretch of El Camino, and as a Menlo Parks icon. I would not call the building a seismic hazard, though. It is a product of the late 1940s, when issues such as resistance to earthquakes were taken into account, with the structural technology available at the time. It is steel reinforced concrete, and the arched ribs of the auditorium structure make for a very sturdy framework. That said, it would not surprise me if a new development on the site would necessitate removal or drastic reconfiguration of parts of the original building. Again, I do hope that the facade can be refurbished. Trivia: I restored some of the etched glass in the theatre in the 1990s.


Posted by Susan Smith, a resident of Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
on Dec 23, 2012 at 8:29 am

Every time I drive down El Camino past the Park Theater, I remember how magnificent the neon of the theater sign was, and what an important hallmark it was for Menlo Park....then the owners just ripped that sign off the face of the building, leaving us look at the fugly, for what? 10 years or so? Pure evil with a lack of any influence by the City of Menlo Park, or their building and planning units to correct this situation in a timely manner, to say the least. When the owners tore down that sign it changed th integrity of the neighborhood, which then started a long, downward spiral into unimportant, dark,ugly, with crummy parking prospects. I wonder if, in my lifetime, this neighborhood will ever recover into something more than 3 story "live-work' spaces which are springing up everywhere up and down El Camino Real. Very sad. Driving down El Camino in Menlo Park sucks.


Posted by neighbor, a resident of another community
on Dec 23, 2012 at 10:05 am

As I recall, the owner proposed several uses for the theatre building and the community went ballistic. They would only accept re-opening the building as a theater, like in the old days.

The owner only has to conform to zoning requirements to redevelop his property -- not the memories or strident dictates of a nostalgic group.

He is entitled to make money from his investment and the community is entitled to state their preferences and identify issues about a potential project that will require special actions (e.g. traffic) --- but the building was not a historic site and preservation wasn't required.

Perhaps the answer is to pay more attention to the Menlo Park Plan -- and go through the established process to protect historic buildings or cherished properties....plot by plot...and work with owners/developers so that there are acceptable properties to both interests and don't generate horrendous traffic problems.

But, going piecemeal + getting hysterical with every project proposal is one reason El Camino looks as awful as it does.


Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community
on Dec 23, 2012 at 1:23 pm

If the sign was removed and put in storage, this is good news. Most old neon signs end up being trashed due to neglect.


Posted by Be a good Santa, Sandy, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 23, 2012 at 5:15 pm

Mr. Crittenden, In the spirit of holiday cheer and generosity, please, return the sign. Ho ho ho.


Posted by Familiar, a resident of another community
on Dec 23, 2012 at 8:10 pm

The P A R K sign is gone. I watched with sadness and sentiment as the workers ripped the sign off the building years ago and tossed the damaged crumpled bits into a dump truck. What I saw land in that truck would cost thousands to fix.

I was inside that building in recent years. It is a moldy, rotted tear-down inside and out. That building will never be a theater again. Too small to justify the expense. Just no parking or infrastructure to use the site that way. Made sense for Howard to wait for a more favorable political climate. Clear the ground and start over from scratch with building appropriate to the El Camino Vision plan.

The P A R K sign can be recreated somewhere else. If you want historical landmarks, I have always endorsed retuning a re-creation of the Menlo Park namesake gate to a featured location in town.


Posted by sammymiami, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Dec 24, 2012 at 10:28 am

saw the BEATLES...HELP ... THERE...SHOULD BE MADE INTO A NATIONAL
MONUMENT>> THE SHOW WAS STOPPED 10 TIMES BECAUSE OF ALL THE SCREAMING
GOING ON..THE BEATLES WERE IT IN THE EARLY 60'S..PUT THE SIGN BACK UP

THE PARK THEATER IS A NATIONAL MONUMENT... went to the show with 3 buddies of mine..there were over 200 sreaming girls..great odds


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