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ARTIST RENDERINGS show plans for the future Cinema Place project in downtown Hayward. The Dining Deck along B Street is imagined and the Century (BLAKE HUNT VENTURES)
HAYWARD

AMOVIE THEATER, restaurant and retail complex that's a big piece of the puzzle to revive downtown here has begun to attract plenty of interest from dining establishments, the project's developers said.

Cinema Place is expected to accommodate about eight to 10 restaurants to go along with a 12-screen Century Theaters facility, said Brad Blake, a partner with Blake Hunt Ventures, the Danville-based developer of the 56,000-square-foot project.

Saxbys Coffee and Tiki Grill have already agreed to rent space in the project, located at the southwest corner of B Street and Foothill Boulevard. The developer is negotiating with some restaurants that would occupy more of the planned spaces, Blake said.

Cinema Place could emerge as an entertainment and retail destination in a city whose downtown has endured sluggish activity over the years, according to city officials and the developers. In the wake of the fits and starts to upgrade Hayward's urban core, this project is poised to be a positive catalyst.

"The movie theater project is clearly another step in the right direction in terms of a revitalized downtown," Mayor Michael Sweeney said. "When the city focused attention on developing a more pedestrian oriented downtown, things started to move."

Other East Bay cities have turned to multi-screen movie theaters as springboards for downtown activity, such as Livermore and Concord.


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Yet while the project is significant, city leaders also say that Cinema Place is but one of the building blocks for the downtown facelift.

"No one can say that a single development will cause the downtown to turn a corner and begin a renaissance," said Maret Bartlett, Hayward's redevelopment director. "We hope Cinema Place will be a good anchor for the eastern end of the downtown."

The new complex will include the multiplex cinemas with 1,800 stadium-style seats, 12,000 square feet of ground floor retail and dining space, and up to 7,000 square feet of second floor restaurant space in a high-profile setting. The developers seek an eclectic mix of shops and eateries.

"There will be a mix of brand-name restaurant tenants and some startup tenants and some smaller chains," Blake said.

Saxbys Coffee is one of the confirmed tenants. Nick Bayer, president of Philadelphia-based Saxbys Coffee Worldwide, said he received a positive vibe about downtown Hayward when he walked through the location a year ago.

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"I really felt we would be part of something big with downtown Hayward," Bayer said. "It's a nice dense walking area. There are professional people there. There is shopping."

The Saxbys executive believes the theaters, restaurants and shops in Cinema Place will only intensify downtown commerce.

"With the movie theater, there will be morning, noon, and evening appeal to that area," Bayer said.

The top executive with the specialty coffee retailer said it does look as if Hayward is undergoing a renaissance.

"We want to stake our claim with something that will create a real stir and significance," Bayer said. "We can't open soon enough."

Saxbys has other East Bay locations, including two in Concord and one in downtown Walnut Creek.

Hayward municipal leaders have approved numerous new housing units in the downtown in hopes that the additional residents would form a core of people interested in shopping, dining and finding entertainment in the area.

Through its redevelopment agency, the city spent $10 million to buy the 2.4 acres for the Cinema Place site, tear down an Albertson's store on the property and construct a parking garage to serve the project. The complex is due to open in the fall of 2008.

In a reminder that these projects often fail to bear fruit right away, this week marks five full years since the redevelopment agency bought the property. And city leaders seem to realize that plenty more work looms before Hayward's downtown can produce a bounty of commercial activity. 

"This project doesn't mean we're finished or we are where we want to be," Mayor Sweeney said. "We need to keep moving forward and making progress."

George Avalos covers jobs, economic development, commercial real estate, finance and petroleum. Reach him at 925-977-8477 or gavalos@bayareanewsgroup.com.