Historic Fox Oakland Theater, designed by Weeks and Day, reopens Feb. 5, 2009, after having been closed for 40 years

August 11, 2010

Oakland, Calif. (February 3, 2009) – The historic Fox Oakland Theater is reopening February 5, 2009, after closing its doors for over 40 years. Housing a premier live performance venue and arts school, the restored Fox Theater will serve as a catalyst to revitalize downtown Oakland’s Uptown Arts and Entertainment district.

The cabaret-style theater will be run by Berkeley’s Another Planet Entertainment (APE) and will host an opening night gala that evening, followed by sold-out opening weekend shows by Social Distortion on February 6, and Michael Franti & Spearhead on February 7. In addition to these concerts, APE has already lined up over a dozen performers for the venue, including B.B. King, Cake, and Franz Ferdinand. Berkeley-based ELS Architecture and Urban Design, who developed the original design concept for preservation and reuse of the theater and is the historic architect for its restoration, reduced the original 3200-seat house to accommodate a flexible capacity from 1,500 to 2,800 seats and create room for an open dance floor, standing room, or cabaret-style seating in front of the stage.

The theater also houses Oakland School of the Arts in the two 3-story commercial wings that wrap around the building. This new home for the charter school is designed by Oakland-based Starkweather Bondy Architecture, and has new classrooms, rehearsal space and joint-use of the theater.

Originally designed by the noted architectural firm of Weeks and Day (architects of the Sainte Claire Hotel, San Jose’s California Fox Theatre and San Francisco’s Mark Hopkins Hotel), the Fox Oakland Theater opened in 1928 as a movie palace evoking an exotic mixture of Indian, Moorish, Medieval, and Baghdadian architecture. However, business began to decline in the 1960s until the Fox closed in 1966. It was threatened by demolition several times, but was saved in 1978 when it was named a city landmark. In 1979, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1996, the City of Oakland bought the theater and began the massive efforts of restoring the Fox to its former glory. The City hired developer and Oakland native Phil Tagami of California Capital Group (CCG) to lead the restoration and financing, with the help of nonprofit Friends of the Oakland Fox (FOOF). Oakland’s Redevelopment Agency, Bank of America, and CCG designed a financial and ownership structure that allowed the project to receive over $20 million in tax credits and an additional $7 million from state and federal grants. The team worked closely with the Redevelopment Agency to secure over $50 million for the project, and FOOF began its capital campaign to secure funds from community donors.

In December 2006, Turner Construction, along with a team of over 50 subcontractors and many local firms, began construction to restore the historic building to its former 1928 grandeur, as well as upgrade it for the 21st century. James Heilbronner of Architectural Dimensions is the lead architect during the renovation.
Located only a half block from the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) light-rail system, the beautifully restored Fox Theater is envisioned as the hub of Oakland’s Uptown Arts and Entertainment District with as many as 500 art students using the facility in the day, and patrons watching shows, dining in its on-site restaurant and bar, and patronizing other local businesses in the evening and on weekends. For more information about the theater, please visit www.thefoxoakland.com.

Contact:  Diana Banh, ELS Architecture and Urban Design 510-549-2929, dbanh@elsarch.com


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