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Downtown Hayward construction on a new cinema complex on Foothill and B St.. The project has been deed crucial to the success of the Hayward downtown revitalization project. March 5th, 2008. (Mike Lucia/Daily Review)
CINEMA PLACE, a $14 million movie theater and restaurant project that is one of the cornerstones for the fledgling rebirth of the city's downtown here, is close to being fully leased.

A Mexican restaurant, pizza eatery, and yogurt shop are among the tenants that are in the final stages of a lease deal at the 56,000-square-foot redevelopment project in downtown Hayward, said Craig Semmelmeyer, a principal executive with Main Street Properties, which is attempting to lease the project. The leases are out for signature to these businesses.

Saxbys Coffee and Tiki Grill have already signed leases to occupy Cinema Place, Semmelmeyer said. The focal point of the project is a 12-screen multiplex movie theater that will contain about 1,800 stadium-style seats. The theaters will total about 37,000 square feet.

In addition, negotiations are under way for a restaurant to occupy a second-story dining space.

"It will have a lot of outdoor seating and it should be very cool," Semmelmeyer said.

A Japanese sushi restaurant and a bar and grill are the top candidates for the 7,000-square-foot space., Semmelmeyer said."There is a lot of excitement about this project," Semmelmeyer said. Now under construction, the complex should be open by this fall.

The leasing activity is strong enough that the developers already have 9,500 square feet of space committed. Only about 2,500 square feet of the street level portion of the project remains open to be leased.


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But can this project really take off? To more than a few people, Hayward's downtown has struggled for a long time and they have trouble envisioning a bustling urban center.

But others believe Cinema Place will mark a turnaround for Hayward. Semmelmeyer argues it may even open some eyes about the East Bay city's potential.

"Hayward is definitely a surprise to a lot of people," Semmelmeyer. "When some people think of Hayward, they think of Southland Mall and the 880 corridor. They are surprised to see what is happening downtown, and they are shocked to see million-dollar homes in the Hayward hills."

Developed by Danville-based Blake Hunt Ventures, the project has attracted an equity partner, Hanover Financial Co.

"There is positive movement in Hayward," said Mark Macedo, a managing director with Hanover Financial. "There is emerging redevelopment going on in Hayward."

Hanover typically prefers to take ownership stakes in sites or cities that might not have been on the radar screen of most investors. The company particularly likes in-fill sites.

"A lot of what we look for is population growth, proximity to employment centers, and a lack of available land," Macedo said. "That creates opportunity for redevelopment and good projects."

Semmelmeyer said the developers are betting on plenty of upside in downtown Hayward.

"The lack of education about this market's potential creates a lot of opportunity," Semmelmeyer said. "We see a lot of pent-up demand for downtown."

Cinema Place has also landed $11 million in financing from Pacific Coast Capital Partners, a realty investment firm and lender.

"Pacific Coast Capital Partners shares in the joint venture's vision for Cinema Place, which is to create an entertainment and retail destination for Hayward and its surrounding communities," said Carolyn Powell, an associate with the lender.

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