Investor considers redevelopment of domed cinema in San Jose

Performing arts center or restaurant among possibilities for Century 21

Federal Realty Investment Trust's ceo Donald C. Wood and renderings of San Jose Century 21 at 3161 Olsen Drive in San Jose (TEF Design, Federal Realty)
Federal Realty Investment Trust's ceo Donald C. Wood and renderings of San Jose Century 21 at 3161 Olsen Drive in San Jose (TEF Design, Federal Realty)

The domed movie theater in San Jose that screened blockbusters such as the original “Star Wars” is expected to undergo redevelopment. The question is: for what?

The owner of the landmark Century 21 movie theater building at 3161 Olsen Dr. has filed a proposal to renovate the 58-year-old landmark for adaptive reuse – with no specific purpose in mind, the San Jose Mercury News reported.

Federal Realty Investment Trust has floated plans to fix up the historic movie theater in West San Jose that closed in 2014. The developer also owns properties next door, and the mixed-use village of Santana Row across the street.

A rendering of the interior (TEF Design)

A rendering of the interior (TEF Design)

“The proposed project is the renovation of the existing Century 21 theater,” Federal Realty said in the proposal. “This project will include a seismic upgrade, new mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, interior buildout, addition of skylights and the addition of an interior floor level.”

The proposal is preliminary and could change, said officials with the Maryland-based real estate investment trust, which invests in shopping centers. The renovations would be conducted to create flexibility for Federal Realty to choose a future role for the historic building.

The real estate firm described possible future uses for the long-shuttered cinema complex, including a performing arts center, or restaurant. Its designers would build in support for office, kitchen, cafeteria, gym and small data center uses, according to the filing.

“We are starting a process to obtain approvals to bring the building into a condition where it may be considered for re-use in the future,” a spokesperson for Federal Realty said in an email to the newspaper. “We have no specific re-use plans for the building at this time.”

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Federal Realty envisions a building with a bright, airy and well-lit interior, according to concepts included in the proposal. New skylights at the center of the dome and on the edges of level two, and above the lobby entrance would provide significant daylight to the interior.

“The project will renovate the existing structure and convert it into a three-story space by adding two floors within the dome above the ground floor,” Ryan Joyce Structural Design stated in a description of the project.

The domed building totals 19,000 square feet, with 18,000 square feet on the ground floor and 1,000 square feet on the second floor where the projection booth was located. An interior reconstruction would produce three floors, creating from 29,000 to 34,500 square feet.

The San Jose Century 21 opened on November 24, 1964, with “It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.” A year after it closed in 2014, it was designated a city historic landmark.

The domed building now lies next to a new office building known as One Santana West, as well as future phases of the office complex. Santana Row is across the street. The old movie house is expected to be woven into the fabric of the evolving Santana West campus at the corner of Winchester Boulevard and Olsen Drive.

“Federal Realty intends to develop this historic building as part of a 13-acre mixed-use commercial development,” according to the filing.

[San Jose Mercury News] – Dana Bartholomew

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