Historic Berkeley show palace could rise as a 15-story apartment building

Adaptive reuse would save Art Deco facade, California Theatre marquee

Thomas Gilbane with 2113 Kittredge Street (Gilbane, Google Maps)
Thomas Gilbane with 2113 Kittredge Street (Gilbane, Google Maps)

A Rhode Island developer wants to turn a century-old Berkeley movie palace into a 15-story apartment building with a live theater stage.

Gilbane, based in Providence, has filed plans to redevelop the shuttered California Theatre at 2113 Kittredge St., a half block west of the UC Berkeley campus, the San Francisco Business Times reported.

Plans call for a 15-story, mixed-use tower of 214 units, which would incorporate the facade and marque of the landmark movie theater into its design.

The student-oriented project, designed by Studio KDA of Berkeley, would set aside 22 units as affordable for households earning between 30 percent and 50 percent of area income.

The Art Deco theater, known locally as “The Cal,” is owned by the descendants of real estate investor John Muldoon, who built the theater with his business partner in 1914, according to city records.

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It opened as the T&D Theater, then was remodeled in 1928 as the New Fox California Theatre. It was remodeled again in 1952 and turned into a triplex before it was acquired by Landmark Theatres in 1994.

The 13,000-square-foot California Theatre was shuttered during the pandemic, closing for good in March 2020. It sits on a third of an acre.

In January, a group of 140 Berkeley residents petitioned the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission to give The Cal landmark status, which would have prevented its redevelopment. In May, the commission awarded landmark status to just the facade and marquee, opening the door for the Gilbane project.

Gilbane would like to see its project approved by next summer. It said it is working with the California Theater Consortium on the new live theater space, which would expand downtown Berkeley’s performing arts venues.

– Dana Bartholomew

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