Center Theater owner decides against demolition — for now

Below is a comment just posted by Center Theater owner David Siddiq. He says he’s holding off on gutting the inside of the theater after reading negative comments posted on the blog.

Not sure if he might have other reasons for deciding against demolition, but for what it’s worth, you guys now can walk up to Dirk Lorenz, look him in the eye, and tell him you’ve done more to save the Center Theater than he ever has.

Hello everyone. After reading many of your comments, I have decided to respond and show you my point of view. I hope that you take the time to read what I have to say.

My name is David Siddiq and I am currently the owner of Center Theatre in Fremont. Seven years ago, I purchased Center Theatre when it was run down and needed extensive renovations, but I decided to purchase it because I had a vision for it. I had a vision that I could restore Center Theatre back to prominence and revitalize the Centerville Area and turn the Fremont downtown center into an area that would rival Pleasanton’s downtown or Walnut Creek’s downtown. Unfortunately, however, the City of Fremont’s consistent denials of my requests to expand operations at the Theatre have left me with few options. Like most people in this economy, I cannot afford to maintain a business that produces no income whatsoever.

For those of you who are attacking me as not caring about the City of Fremont, you could not be further from the truth. In the past 30 years, I have done many things to revitalize this area including (but not limited to): constructing 4 different shopping centers, opening a banquet hall, cycle center, pizza shop, and opening a restaurant to attract business to this area. I love Fremont and you are right, this is not Little Kabul, this is Centerville and respect the heritage that comes to this territory. By remodeling and revitalizing Center Theatre, I had the same hopes that the City of Fremont had which is to build a community arts facility and theatre which could be enjoyed by everyone in our community. The city, however, has been far from helpful in this process and has consistently halted any progress I have made in an effort to force me to sell the property to them. I will not give into these strong-arm tactics, however, because I believe that I have a vision that can help revitalize this entire area and stimulate our local economy. I do not believe that the City of Fremont can make the changes I can because, let’s be honest, our down town area has not seen any changes within the past 30 years. While cities like Pleasanton, Livermore, and Walnut Creek continue to make concessions to help attract business owners and update their downtown areas, the City of Fremont is doing the opposite—making business owners like myself not want to do business in Fremont anymore and demolishing existing buildings in the area with no plans to construct new ones.

I apologize to anyone who may have been offended by my reference to the “Centerville Dump.” I hope you can understand that these comments stem from my growing frustration with the City council members, and not with the City of Fremont. I love Fremont and have lived here for over 30 years. My adult children have gone to high school in this city (MSJ) and I have sponsored local sports teams here for over 20 years. I want nothing more for this city than to rejuvenate the Theatre and bring this Theatre back so that consumers like yourselves can come back and relive past memories here.

At this time, after reading your responses, I have decided to HALT demolition for the time being. I do not want to let my emotions ruin any progress that I have made on revitalizing this Theatre but I need your help at this time. If you would like the Theatre to stay, please call your local City Council representatives and convey your feelings. Furthermore, if you have any ideas on how you would like the Theatre to proceed, please feel free to call me at 510-390-1000. Additionally, if anyone feels that they would be more capable of running this Theatre, I am open to making a lease arrangement. Thank you for your time.

Matt Artz


  1. Perhaps an idea for the theater would be to turn it into an independent film theater similar to the Vine in Livermore and the one in Palo Alto. The Vine even has a few cabaret tables scattered about the theater and serve food, wine, and beer in addition to the typical popcorn, candy and soda that typical movie theaters serve. We have to drive to Livermore, Palo Alto, and further to find movie theaters that show these indies that are most entertaining. And, as far as I know, the Vine in Livermore is the only one of its kind in the area.
    It would be a shame to tear down this theater, since it might be a golden opportunity to have something worthwhile in Fremont, while perhaps making a profit for the theater.

  2. Thank you, Mr. Siddiq! My husband and I were reminiscing last night about the ABC Center, the Rocky Horror Picture Show, and the Naz Cinema. I’d like to see something like the Camera One in San Jose — an indie movie theater with a small cafe. Something that will attract responsible entertainment seekers who will enjoy a movie and a nice dinner at one of the nearby restaurants.

    As someone else who has watched the careless way the city has treated Centerville, I completely agree with Mr. Siddiq’s critiques of our city “leaders.”

  3. A shame we cant figure out how to get access to the same kinds of funds your City Council granted for the repair and maintenance of privately-owned streets and alleyways in Niles.

    Of course, *those* were deemed an asset which worked to the benefit of the greater community, despite being privately owned. . . which is, of course, a totally different situation than the theatre.

  4. He is absolutely right. He has shown how much he cares about Fremont with all his work on the theater… It was almost BECAUSE of that fact, that it was so frustrating and provoked such outrage when he decided to demolish the inside.

    It may indeed be very hard to maintain, but this is very much an issue of: Once it’s gone, it will NEVER return.

    We, as a community, get no second chances on this one.

  5. From the 9/7 Argus article –


    ‘After reading several angry comments on this newspaper’s Tri-City Beat blog, he penned a 652-word response . . . ”

    Curious choice of words by our community “reporter”. By my count, of the 25 comments which followed on to the original Sept 1st TCB story, only 1 expresses any animosity towards Siddiq. The rest appear unanimous in their support for Siddiq and his actions and/or disapproving of the Council behavior. Yet, reading the coverage in todays Argus, one would reasonably conclude exactly the opposite, with the “anger” of sufficient impetus to have caused Siddiq to pen a response. . . .

    “In July, the City Council then denied Siddiq a permit to hold additional types of events, stating that Siddiq had no plans to address safety concerns.”

    How are the proposed uses substantially different from those that are currently approved ?

    If operating under the current use permit, how would these very same “safety concerns” be addressed if Siddiq filled the theater to capacity tomorrow ?? (answer – they wouldn’t – the current permit allows Siddiq to operate as a theatre and fill it to some aproved capacity.)

  6. Which statement did I make that you take exception with Marty ?

    Hard to tell from your rather extreme and non-specific response.

  7. Matt, What other Council Members, I am qouting your article..

    “Mayor Bob Wasserman, who cast the only vote in support of Siddiq in July, praised him for holding off on the demolition, but other council members said they had no plans to reconsider the issue.”
    There is elections coming up and I think it is important to hold Council Members acountable!

  8. #8…Here’s some animosity for ya.To quote the Box “Niles folks are virtually swimming in the emissions, particulates, and noise which results from this frequent (and, occasional, high speed) traffic… my heart goes out to these folks.”…*those* would be the Niles folks he so much to envies. Box, why don’t you do what you and your folks do best… chase another cash cow out of Fremont. Two time losers and retreads won’t get it done. Play ball!

  9. #9 – What part of my comment did you take exception to Marty ??? Please be specific – the more the better.

    Difficult for me to imagine where you’d come up with something as bizarre as “.. gonzo journalist..”

  10. “There is nothing more helpless and irresponsible than a man in the depths of an ether binge.”
    -Hunter S. Thompson

  11. Thank you Mr. Siddiq.

    Hopefully our city “leaders” can pull their collective head out of their collective…

    It’s a long shot but at least you’ve given US a chance to show them how.

    Time to step up TC Beaters.

  12. Whoa, folks. Something doesn’t smell right about this. Let’s hear from Mr. Siddiq about why he didn’t choose to make the safety improvements in this 60+ year old building. Let’s hear from Mr. Siddiq about why he chose to completely ignore his lack of a permit to hold a concert (which he knew full well was required) and went right ahead and did that anyway, without the safety measures, etc., thumbing his nose at city laws/regulations.
    Let’s not let our sympathies be swayed by only one side of this issue. I’ve wondered if he was trying to gouge the city of Fremont with a ridiculous asking price for this ancient theater that has very little value as anything else.
    Even with as little respect as I have for our City Council, I suspect that the fault is not all on their side. We should be a bit more suspicious of Mr. Siddiq’s attempt to play the victim here.

  13. Kind suggestion: let’s stop looking back; get the issues on the table; find the middle ground and get it done.

  14. I agree Dan. Any errors that may or may not have been due to Siddiq’s management has been absolved by his thoughtful compromise, at least in my eyes. He does need to come through in the future, though.

    Can the council absolve there past errors?

    Has everyone left messages with the council?

    Suzanne Lee Chan, Vice Mayor
    Ph: (510) 284-4081

    Anu Natarajan, Councilmember
    Ph: (510) 284-4082

    Bill Harrison, Councilmember
    Ph: (510) 284-4083

    Dominic Dutra, Councilmember
    Ph: (510) 284-4084

    Emails of each available HERE

  15. Perhaps Marty has some inside information about this “thoughtful compromise”; I don’t see it here. Has Mr. Siddiq done the safety upgrades?

  16. No “safety upgrades” were *required* under the current use permit – – – which allows Siddiq to operate as a theatre – – – to entertain large gatherings – – – who need to park somewhere – – –

    Siddiq could conceivably fill his theatre to capacity tomorrow and be completely “safe” – in the eyes of his current use permit.

    The notion of *required* safety upgrades – under the CURRENT use permit – is a straw man.

  17. Eyes, he was set to gut the joint, but he didn’t. I think he’s made a major concession.

    But who knows, your entire ideology is based on using other people’s money to meet your ends. Compromise on your terms probably involves Mr Siddiq continuing to pay out of his pocket to keep the Performing Arts Center pipe dream a hot smoldering cherry of ash.

  18. #24…To be sure Siddiq would be a better choice than ANY FCN endorsed candidate.

  19. Lame, he’s a phony… turn it over to the city and admit to yourself that you made a bad investment…. move on…. let someone else take over.

  20. Robert #25, Fremontguy #28,
    Please explain yourselves or are you just throwing
    misinformation darts

  21. Sorry West, but the response-generating computer programs that are spitting out the non-specific “comments” (misinformation darts) submitted around here, are pretty basic.

    They aren’t intended to inform or be enlightening.
    Their purpose is strictly to clearly bleat once, the polarized message they want you to notice. Or, to put it another way, the program’s intention is to interrupt the conversation by distracting our collective thinking with noise.

    If the sneaky piece of crap that is behind this spam feels what’s going on here is important enough to station a meat-puppet in a cubicle office outside Wichita to follow up on questions such as yours, then you might get an explanation or something specific.

    But that’s unlikely.

  22. Matt Artz,
    Please do a story about the whole theater fiasco. Give us the history of what has transpired. Periodically we get snap shots of what is happening.
    I think we need to look at the entire story.
    If I remember Dirk Lorenz was once a advocate of the theater and had a hand in running it?
    I think before we raise to much hell, we need the whole story.

  23. #33

    With limited time, I have been doing some research on this and there is a LOT of history/meat to this – it would be a good article. I think that West knows firsthand the power of small groups to evoke change but the main issue is in bridging the gap between what Mr. Siddig believes he deserves and what is capable of being delivered in this economy. I am not sure that this can be bridged.

    In the 70s, there was talk of tearing down the Fox California in San Jose. There was a similar situation where the property appraised at X and the owner who felt the property was worth X +Y. Everyone (including Mr. Siddig) is looking at the potential of the Center. But everyone needs to calculate the improvements to the building and surrounding infrastructure to realize the potential – this is where the “Y” (above) begins to erode.

    In the case of the Fox (SJ), I recall took a small group to help negotiate these differences in opinions and save the place.
    IMO, it will take that here…

  24. #34…Hate to break it to ya Dan but West/CalGuy knows nothing more than his FCN masters have divulged . The Varsity Theater in Palo Alto kind-a works because Sweet Tomatoes is NOT the #1 destination for culture. Fremont has been doomed by the FCNers so please remember this when you go to the polls!

  25. CC – Hate to break it to you CC but the Varsity has been gone for years…
    you mean the Stanford?

    All I mean: if you want change – form a group.

  26. If you have any doubts about the “potential” of the Center Theater…PLEASE READ this article:


    Here is a nice quote to ponder:

    Longtime Park Street merchant Debbie George credits the theater for the progress in getting new businesses into the formerly successful furniture store she and her husband owned for several years. Between the decline of new housing construction, the sagging real estate market and people’s dwindling funds during the economic plummet, buying new furniture lost its allure and business went downhill.

    The couple emptied most of the retail space in the building of its furniture to make room for new tenants. Lanvie has opened its second apparel shop in town in the front of the building, and a cupcake stand has also taken up residence in the building’s entryway. More tenants are in the works, and though George said she is excited about them, she can’t yet make them public until all the paperwork has been processed.

    “The theater opened up tremendous foot traffic in the district,” she said.

    City Council: Are you listening??

  27. I agree with Dan #37.
    There is a market for this type of theater, not a huge market but one big enough to be Sucessful in Centerville.
    The City Council, Screwed up in there initial negotiations with the Theater. The thought was a small Performing Arts Center. Most people in Fremont supported it,
    I would love to know what exactly caused the rift between the owner and the city council. We probably will never know. You sure as hell will not read much about it in the Oakland Argus

  28. Despite the purchasing of myriad studies, the creation of reports and proposals and the repeated re-authoring of highly touted general “plans” – the results, except at a very course level, and with rare exception, communicate a clear lack of cohesiveness and sense of identity.

    If there is any sensitivity to character and the opportunity to build on or create same, it seemingly has little or no voice in the discussion of what to do next. What screams the loudest is a need to do a deal, ANY deal, whatever deal SOMEONE is willing to propose.

    It is a pretty obvious sense of desperation that seems to operate from a position of a need to do *something* (ANYTHING!!!??) as opposed to a desire to identify and/or build a recognizable and differentiated community.

    Unlike the overwhelming majority of communities, ours is unique in that we’ve been blessed with a diversity of canvas with which to work. As with all communities, we have our challenges as well.

    For starters – we need managers that know how to plan and execute to achieve a desired result, as opposed to ones who will rely on developers to suggest an idea which we then pass off as some kind of conscious “plan” and management achievement.

    It starts at the top.

  29. Here’s a perfect example of the very kind of mentality that achieves the kinds of result you can witness all over our town –

    “If nothing is happening in San Jose, I believe Fremont needs to be at the table, even if the chance is remote,” she said. “A downtown is not going to happen with little steps. We need to think big.”

    Sadly the individual that is frequently heralded as our most educated in municipal design completely misses the mark becuase it is precisely the “..little steps..” that you do to build on local character.

    Unfortunately, our leaders are far too fixated on some kind of testosterone-fueled notion of bigger is better. . . . .

    Keep waiting for that great big pie in the sky, Anu. In the meantime, that little bit of charm in each of our historic districts is waning away and slipping between your fingers.

    It starts at the top

    Above quote can be found buried at the bottom of this link –


  30. I’m not sure if you bozo’s would have the gusto necessary to actually pay to see a film with subtitles, much less Pink Flamingos.

    When you stand on the street across from the Center, it is despairingly clear how retarded Fremont’s “leaders” are when they bemoan a downtown that doesn’t exist and wax poetic about one they have a vision of.
    Because standing across from the Center, One can easily see that all the ingredients are ALREADY in place just about: Books, Food, Liquor, small shops, ect. All for the most part unique and individually owned. All that is needed to activate the whole picture is right there ALREADY built. Just turn on the lights and watch the people start to mingle around.

    Instead Anu will finally somehow bring her “vision” to life by getting the city to spend 50 mil. to put up a state-of-the-art stoplight with built-in red-light camera, some benches and a sign that weighs 50 tons and was imported from China that says “Downtown” in a vacant lot next to the railroad tracks unspecifically between the NUMM- I mean the Tesla Plant- and warm springs.

    And as the inaugural ribbon gets cut on the big day marking the “Official” opening of FREMONT’S DOWNTOWN AREA, a sound will be heard and all will look to see a BART trains speeding past heading toward the new Warm Springs station that is no short walking distance away.

    And later someone will mention it, but no one will ever actually ask..
    Why didn’t they put it closer to the Bart Station.

    Oh yeah, that reminds me. There is also A TRAIN STATION by the CENTER THEATER! HEEEEEELLLLLLOOOO!
    How many “downtowns” have a fucking train station right in the middle of them.

    And there is actually a debate about this. For crying out loud are you people really this shallow and materialistic, desperate to have more money in the bank, this lousy with greed?
    Because it’s hard for me to believe that anyone who’s been to college can possibly be so stupid, that, while standing on FREMONT BLVD. across from THE CENTER THEATER, they would think that a downtown is anything or anywhere else.

  31. Waaaay over at least one pretty obvious line tony. Chris d needs to hit the delete key on this one

  32. I think Anu Natarajan Means no harm. I think She is anxious to make something happen to kick start a viable downtown. Maybe a bit naive on Her part. This is a very controverial Item and She is stirring up old hostilities.
    Lou, A’s Owner, has just recieved the blessing of major league Owners, to vote on the move, after meeting certain conditions.
    San Jose does have a minor league Baseball team. I think it is a minor legue A team.
    If the A’s do move to San Jose maybe making a pitch to invite the San Jose , minor league team to Fremont would make sense.

  33. #43 BB: while I understand your concern (and with all due respect)… it is one of the best posts to date.

    Keep it.

  34. Oh heck, not at all, Dan. But lets also agree that if not this one then we’re throwing even the most fundamental of definitions of respect out the window. I’m game …. F- bombs are fair game.

  35. My god, this used to be a family blog. I’m almost scared to post anymore.

  36. Nope – My mistake – I think I stand corrected, Tony.

    I took a look back at Chris D’s original request to clean things up and there’s absolutely nothing that one could misconstrue as a request for civility or respect EXCEPT that we “..stop at least one bad habit ..” – which had absoutely nothing to do with potty mouth.

    Seems like we’re all welcome to curse with the best of ’em, if, that is, you think it adds to your case.

    Anyone else remember when “circle jerk” raised some eyebrows? We HAVE come a long ways.

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