Plans to turn shuttered Alexandria Theater into public swimming pool

A San Francisco movie theater closed for more than a decade, could reopen its doors again soon.

After closing its doors 15 years ago, the Alexandria Theater on Geary Boulevard in San Francisco's Richmond District, is now a crumbling shadow of its former self. The historic theater closed its doors in 2004. Now the owners are preparing to reopen the theater as a 40,000 square foot complex. But, instead of movies, swimming will be the entertainment of choice.

Plans call for two pools, a learning center and offices on a third floor.

"I'm very happy with that, very happy," said David Heller, President of the Geary Boulevard Merchants Association and owner of the Beauty Network just two blocks from the theater. He says for years the building has crumbled, drawing vandals and squatters.

"We had people crashing in, into the place. Homeless people were living inside, they trashed it," said Heller. "We almost had a fire there one time."

He said word that one of the most iconic buildings in the neighborhood would reopen is welcome news.

"To see that finally happening is a blessing for the neighborhood," said Heller.

Supervisor Sandra Fewer has made it a priority to catalog and fill vacant businesses and says getting the corner of 18th Street and Geary activated with a new project is welcome news.

"I think that this is the perfect example, quite frankly," said Fewer. "It has been vacant since 2004. I think the people of the Richmond District are ready for something to be put there."

In the neighborhood some welcome the prospect of the Alexandria's new life as an aquatic center. "I think that's exciting if it's going to be a pool," said neighbor Ray Whelan. "We need something in the neighborhood, we don't have anything."

Others say they still want more details on the project before jumping in with both feet. "Well, I want to know who benefits. I want to know if the public benefits, I want to know what the developers expectations are," said Linda Gallanter.

The architect for the project says preserving the historic facade and interior of the buildings is one of the top priorities. As is making sure the public will have access to the new swimming and learning facilities.

The pool will be available to members and the public will be able to reserve and use public spaces inside.

Construction is set to begin next year and the developer hopes to open the doors by 2022.