When Menlo Park resident Drew Dunlevie brought forward the idea of a nonprofit live music venue to breathe new life into the old Guild Theatre in early 2018, the widespread excitement about the idea offered a rare example of how near-unanimous public support can expedite an often contentious and slow-moving process.
However, it's likely that the abundant public goodwill the project generated will be put to the test over the next two years as demolition and construction work move forward.
According to a Dec. 10 staff report, construction on the new Guild Theatre will start with six weeks of demolition work set to last through mid-January, followed by 18 months of construction, through mid-2021.
The bad news: Construction of the building at 949 El Camino Real is going to require about 180 days of "intermittent" closures of the southbound through lane on El Camino Real, according to staff. (El Camino has only two lanes in that section, with curbside parking.)
And while the closures are set to last from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. – avoiding the worst peak commute times – staff say they expect "a significant traffic impact" as a result of the planned lane closures.
They say they tried to explore other options, but there really aren't any, since the only access to the theater is off of El Camino Real, and the theater takes up the entire property site, according to the report.
One potential silver lining of the misery folks will experience traversing a further-bottlenecked El Camino Real is that city staff are working with the Peninsula Arts Guild, the nonprofit that's building the new theater, to use the planned closures to improve a couple of crosswalks along El Camino Real near the theater.
In 2016, the City Council approved and budgeted for expanding crosswalk options along El Camino Real at key intersections, including those at Roble Avenue and Menlo/Ravenswood avenues.
Those crossings only have crosswalks on one side of El Camino Real. The city proposes to add a crosswalk, curb ramp and pedestrian signals at those intersections. (The city also supports expanded crosswalks across El Camino Real at Middle and Cambridge avenues, but has tied those crosswalks to Stanford's Middle Plaza project, under construction.)
According to the report, city staff are working out a funding agreement with the Peninsula Arts Guild. The next steps for the crosswalks are to design, do the environmental clearance work, and then install them, a process expected to unfold over the next two years alongside the new theater's construction.
The Peninsula Arts Guild was launched by Menlo Park resident Drew Dunlevie and backed by two other locals, investor Pete Briger and entrepreneur Thomas Layton.
The scope of the project became more complex last year when it became evident that the theater's current configuration slightly oversteps the property line, requiring a wall to be demolished and moved 6 inches in.
Plans are for the new theater to have a main viewing area on the ground floor, a second-story mezzanine, and a basement with a "green room" and a comfortable area where performers can shower and relax prior to shows. The new Guild will be about 11,000 square feet, with a maximum height of 34 feet, and with a capacity for about 150 to 200 seats, or about 500 people at a standing-room-only show.