‘On Broadway’ marks birthday in Redwood City 

This weekend might not bring party hats and cake for the downtown retail-cinema site’s first birthday, but nearby shop owners say business has improved since Century 20 opened one year ago.

The downtown site — officially known as "On Broadway," launched July 28, 2006, when the new 20-screen Century Theatres branch opened at the corner of Broadway and Middlefield Road. Since then, a trickle of restaurants and retail stores has continued to open, including Citrine New World Bistro, which openedJune 15 in one of the coveted corner spots.

Cinemark, the firm that purchased the Century Theatres chain in 2006, would not provide financial data for individual theaters, according to spokeswoman Terrell Falk. However, downtown sales taxes increased from $231,000 in the fourth quarter of 2005 to $250,000 in the fourth quarter of 2006 — an 8.2 percent increase, according to city Finance Director Brian Ponty.

"The theater is doing great," said Dan Zack, Redwood City’s downtown development manager. "The summer movie season has been great — we’ve been filling the garage on Friday and Saturday nights."

While nearby businesses do well when a major movie is playing at Century 20, they can also tell when major movies aren’t playing there, said Adam Levin, manager at Escape From New York Pizza. Major blockbusters, including "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," "Transformers" and "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End" have been launched at the decades-old Century 12 on East Bayshore Road.

Decisions regarding which films open in which theaters are made by the company’s booking department and film distributors, Falk said.

However, as vacancies are snapped up, things are slowly improving.

"It’s getting better — Cafe Portofino opened, and Tartine just opened [nearby]," Levin said. "Every time somebody opens, that makes it nicer."

Redwood City is injecting its downtown with nightlife during the summer by hosting movies and dancing at the new Courthouse Square. The events are bringing locals downtown on Wednesday and Thursday nights, according to Zack. In addition, the glass pavilions in the square could soon be leased by two eateries, according to Jeannie Young, the city’s economic development specialist.

Developer has more in store

Developer David Irmer, the brains behind downtown’s Sequoia Station and On Broadway shopping centers, said he is cooking up plans for offices and up to 300 residential units on a chunk of land between the two centers.

Irmer closed the $2 million purchase of a parcel at the corner of Jefferson Street and Middlefield Road last week. The site currently houses Los Potillos, a Mexican restaurant, and a small parking lot.

Irmer said he would also like to work with Redwood City to include an adjacent city-owned parking lot in his plans to build a 10-story office building and up to 300 units of housing in the middle of downtown Redwood City.

"I do not have the right to acquire the city property, but it’s what I would like to do," Irmer said. "The more lights we can turn on in the evening, the more bodies we can bring downtown. That gives it a heartbeat."

While Redwood City leaders are eager to create housing and enliven downtown, it can’t do anything with the city-owned parking lot until Caltrain finishes a study of its corridor that includes the property, according to Pat Webb, economic development director for the city.

Irmer plans to bring more formal plans to Redwood City within the next 30 days. The city is also waiting on applications from the Sayar family, developers who plan to build an unknown number of condominiums on Fuller Street, and developer John Baer, who aims to build 100 condos at 201 Marshall St.

"A couple of years ago, nobody was talking about building condos downtown," said Downtown Development Manager Dan Zack. "Long-term, the plan [for enlivening downtown] is to build housing."

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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