San Lorenzo Express News

Arts Group to Buy Lorenzo Theater

SEPTEMBER 30, 2001

The nonprofit Lorenzo Theater Foundation announced Wednesday it has signed an agreement to purchase the Lorenzo Theater. The agreement follows several months of negotiations with the owner, Dr. Dharam Salwan.

Dr. Salwan, a Fremont veterinarian and real estate entrepeneur, himself purchased the theater recently, in December last year. The agreement sets a purchase price of $400,000, payable over 15 years.

The Foundation plans to restore the theater to use as a "center for the visual and performing arts." Dr. Salwan is donating $200,000 to make the transfer possible, and in recognition of Salwan's gift the theater's auditorium will be dedicated in honor of Salwan's parents.

The Lorenzo Theater has sat vacant since 1982. In the intervening years a number of uses for the structure were proposed, but none proved viable or acceptable to the San Lorenzo community. In 1998 Larry Leal, who grew up in San Lorenzo, started the Lorenzo Theater Foundation with the aim of purchasing the building and raising the money needed to restore it to use. Rehabilitation costs are estimated at 8 - 12 million dollars.

The Foundation, a California nonprofit corporation, has not announced specific plans to raise the money for the purchase and restoration.

The theater is part of the "Village Square," a once-thriving commercial center and the de facto heart of the surrounding community. Three years ago residents began formulating plans to revitalize the center. This effort led to the development of a "specific plan" for the area, a set of guidelines for development. The specific plan -- which operates as an amendment to the county's general plan -- has not yet been adopted by the county board of supervisors.

The Bohannon Organization, which owns all property within the square except the theater, recently signed an agreement with Civic Partners to redevelop the area. A master plan for development of the Village Square is expected from Civic Partners in the near future. Earlier this year Alameda County formed a redevelopment district that includes the square, thus making public funds available for future development there.

See the Lorenzo Theater Foundation website for more information.