Fentons Scooping, Er, Scoping Out Lafayette's Park Theatre for New Ice Cream Parlor

The Oakland-based ice creamery wants to set up shop in Lafayette, but a shortage of parking could stall the move.

A push to bring Fentons Creamery to Lafayette’s Park Theatre could freeze because there’s not enough parking nearby.

At its , the Lafayette City Council will discuss meeting with developers to brainstorm fixes to the problem. That would mean finding about 50 additional parking spaces, said Steve Falk, Lafayette city manager.

When the Park Theatre and other Plaza Way properties were first constructed, parking was not an issue – but now, years down the road, there's a shortage of spaces.

City rules have made it nearly impossible to find a solution, wrote Greg Woehrle, developer and owner of the theatre, in a letter to Lafayette. And though he’s tried to purchase lots for parking over the past six years, his efforts have failed.

If the issue is not resolved, the famous Oakland restaurant will start looking for other locations, Woehrle wrote.

Previously, Lafayette beat out other cities – Orinda, Walnut Creek, Alamo and Danville – in the battle over Fentons.

There are several solutions for parking that could be on the table, Falk said.

Woehrle suggested lifting current parking rules, saying it seems the “only choice” that could seal the deal with Fentons.

Falk said that Lafayette could create a historic district for Plaza Way properties, which would lower the parking requirements in the area.

Other options would look into using other parking lots – one at the corner of First Street and Golden Gate Way, and a city-owned lot on Moraga Road.

A timeshare agreement with the Lafayette Library and Learning Center, where Fentons could use the parking lot during the evening, may also be up for discussion.

Spencer July 23, 2011 at 04:57 AM
Good comments on parking Lorraine. Lafayette has evolved into a vibrant downtown where people will park where they can and don't mind walking. Be careful though when you assume "Fenton's will figure out...with their money...how to make the building unique for their business". They aren't that stupid to convert a theater at their own cost; kitchen equipment, fixtures, furniture and decor yes, but the major conversion costs will be the Landlord's expense. And, the monopoly game is called retail repositioning. Celia's and Baja Fresh are both on the bubble, be patient and see what's next. Many others like Fenton's have their eyes on Lafayette.
LorraineS July 23, 2011 at 05:07 AM
Spencer...maybe you apply to be Fenton's broker :-) It's not retail repositioning for Fenton's. They know where they want to be. Downtown Lafayette is not a redevelopment zone...so using an archaic parking code to try and "reposition" Fenton's into a site that is more convenient to park but out of the center of Lafayette, is bad for downtown. Fenton's will go where they know they will be successful...not where the parking is convenient...or they wont come to Lafayette.
whoride July 23, 2011 at 05:28 AM
there's a big lawn now where we used to park, and it's a park. Campana's parking lot was empty at night back in the day and there was parallel parking on Mt. Diablo directly in front of the theater, as well as the surface parking lot that is now covered with the new library...that's where people parked!
Valerie Sloven July 23, 2011 at 05:49 AM
I live in Orinda but shop in Lafayette all the time. The traffic on Mt.Diablo, is a pain, and what is with those enormous trucks that frequently block the entrance to Trader Joe's! Apart from that, I can start at T.J's finish at Pete's with a couple stops in between and rarely have trouble parking.
Lisa Colhoun July 23, 2011 at 01:37 PM
What about the spot closest to the reservoir that was called Fuze or Fuz? Big space, big parking lot. Problem solved, and the blight at that end of town reduced.
Dave Corkill July 23, 2011 at 01:39 PM
Just ask downtowners what Lafayette was like when the Park Theatre was successfully attracting first run movies before the Century 14 in Walnut Creek opened. Fentons will never draw as many cars as the movie theatre could have. There should be no reason to reject Fentons on the basis of parking.
Lafayette Curmudgeon July 23, 2011 at 04:19 PM
How many restaurants have failed in that space in the last ten years? Fenton's is a different animal, but that spot's cursed!
R.A. July 23, 2011 at 04:29 PM
Yes... why not Moraga????
My Kids Dad July 23, 2011 at 06:07 PM
Jonathan Winchell July 23, 2011 at 06:54 PM
If the Lafayette Park Theatre is going to be successful Greg Woehrle has to stop complaining about the parking because the real issue of the Lafayette Park Theatre its a Landmark and since it is from 1941 he doesn't want to entertain any offers in my opinion. Second thing is there has been discussion about having a Foreign & Art house films after the closing of the Lafayette Park Theatre in 2005 and Greg Woehrle declined because it was not in his best interest. That's my opinion but do your own homework. My idea of the Lafayette Park Theatre is to be runned by the Lamorinda Theatre Management Group.
Elaine Lind July 23, 2011 at 09:51 PM
I vote for Moraga - lots of parking at the Rheem Center, college town, what's not to like? Elaine
Spencer July 23, 2011 at 11:12 PM
"what's not to like?" well, from a retail standpoint, how about a small trade area at the end of the cul-de-sac for starters. Lafayette is far and away the best location for vibrant retailers interested in the Lamorinda demographics. It's pedestrian friendly, has main street feel, four major grocers, extensive depth of restaurants, apparel and lifestyle retailers, parking, with easy access from Hwy 24. All the amenities are there to honor shoppers with an enjoyable and pleasant experience.
Chris Nicholson July 24, 2011 at 01:16 AM
I thought about the lawn/park. Did the cinema used to be called "Asphalt Theater?" I know parking is a real issue, but I hope they find a way to make it work. We're big Fenton's fans in our family.
Steve Snyder July 24, 2011 at 01:18 AM
Fenton's is perfect for that location. Fenton's of Lafayette will become a major "Family" destination! If you remember their menu, it is a family menu, and of course the Fenton's Ice Cream does dominate thoughts. Fenton's will be an excellent retail contrbution to the City of Lafayette and its tax revenue as other successful restaurants have already proven. Not enough parking? Shame on you. You'll be the first to have a hamburger and either a banana split or hot fudge sunday. You'll then need excercise, so you can walk a quarter of a mile to the "new" Lafayette public parking lot on Moraga Road. This is not hard. If the lot is full, I would bet poeple will walk further just to go to Fenton's for the food. The parking foes either need something to say so they can be noticed while they crow , or just hate ice cream. For the "not enough parking people," let me remind you that for more than fifteen years on the third weekend of September, Lafayette seems to find enough parking for about one hundred thousand people for The Lafayette Art and WIne Festival. This is a no brainer. I agree with Spencer. Welome Fenton's, you have my vote.
jeff July 24, 2011 at 01:58 AM
They add another burrito place. Another pizza place. And when we finally get something that is for the whole community, now they start worrying about parking spaces. The best part would be riding bikes with your family to go get ice cream. We would finally get what Lafayette needs.
Lafayette Curmudgeon July 24, 2011 at 03:32 AM
Should the owner of the Park Theater operate in someone else's best interest and not his own? I hate to sound like a Randian, but come now!
Chris Nicholson July 24, 2011 at 03:56 AM
Is speaking in defense of free enterprise shameful? If so, perhaps change your profile pic. ;-) Wasn't Silent Cal a low taxes, small gov't, free market conservative?
Ted Zeppelin July 24, 2011 at 04:12 AM
Somehow we always found a place to park when we went to the Park. If Lafayette gets in the way, I (selfishly) vote to put Fenton's in the Phair's building in Orinda.
Spencer July 24, 2011 at 05:02 AM
Better off staying in Lafayette; Save Orinda will get in the way and push for a referendum making Loard's the only ice cream store in town.
LorraineS July 24, 2011 at 03:37 PM
Hate to repeat myself. City of Moraga, Lafayette, Orinda, and Patch, prognosticators, don't get to choose where Fenton's locates. Fenton's ownership has chosen to take a free enterprise business decision to locate in the Park Theatre. The question remains, is the City of Lafayette going to allow them to take the economic risk of locating in the Park Theatre by providing a parking variance? If not, THEY will decide to locate somewhere else. I personally think it is the perfect use for the building. They will be incredibly successful, and well supported by the community. People will deal with the lack of perceived parking. If Fenton's is not allowed to locate here, there is a very good chance this Landmark building will be empty for many more years.
Collin Wong July 25, 2011 at 03:17 AM
I'll second the Phair's location!
c5 July 25, 2011 at 01:41 PM
wow, i guess we should all have a say in what happens to greg's property?
c5 July 25, 2011 at 01:45 PM
i am really excited to hear that fenton's is looking at lafayette for a location. if it comes to pass it could have a huge impact on the entire downtown area...and a positive one. i think the town should almost bend over backwards to find a way to make the parking situation work, and clearly if there are arcane parking rules that are a hindrance, the town should consider waiving them in this instance for the good of the town. as for other suggested locations mentioned, that is really up to fenton's, and i am glad they are hoping to be able to get a deal done in lafayette. now it is time for our town leaders to get something done, it is one of the more signature development transactions this town is likely to ever see. failure to find a workable solution would be a major disappointment in terms of our leadership imo..
Lafayette Curmudgeon July 25, 2011 at 01:57 PM
Coolidge is clearly the most underrated of Presidents. What an unending font of wisdom, that man. "If you see ten problems coming at you, wait. Nine of them will hit the gutter before they hit you."
Lafayette Curmudgeon July 25, 2011 at 02:02 PM
@Spencer - you have it exactly right. There's an element in Orinda that believes the town should be encased in amber to be preserved for all time.
Lafayette Curmudgeon July 25, 2011 at 02:04 PM
I just want a say in what happens to Mr. Winchell's property. Please let the public know when you mean to sell your house and we'll put it to a vote as to whether you should be allowed to sell and under what conditions.
Tina Chambers July 25, 2011 at 02:08 PM
Love the idea - and if Lafayette doesn't work out, obviously we have plenty of space in Moraga, unfortunately.
Spencer July 25, 2011 at 04:18 PM
Sorry Tina, if it doesn't work for Fenton's in Lafayette they will not be in Lamorinda at all. The "plenty of space" you refer to in Moraga should be evaluated for redevelopment to mixed use or other alternatives. There are other ways to deal with large amounts of vacancy beside just filling space.
Ed Jose August 18, 2011 at 09:52 PM
Gee whiz, Lorraine, you're swell!
Love Lafayette August 25, 2011 at 12:18 AM
I am like most people; Fentons would be a good addition to the community. I have been going to Fentons for over 40 years. Parking has to be addressed; I could only imagine the grid lock at Whole Foods, if they had not purchased the lot on the corner near the freeway for their employees. Whole Foods will benefit monetarily from parking lot that is not always packed. Everyone has a right to do what they want with their property as long as they meet certain zoning requirements and parking requirements. Fentons in Berkeley impacts surrounding neighborhoods with overflow parking in front of homes on side streets, if this is what you want I assume you do not live near downtown. Assume a neighbor wants to build an apartment complex next to you with no parking because he wants to earn a greater return. He says he can find parking on the street and maybe sometimes in your driveway when his tenants cannot find any other place to park. I am going to assume that since Whole Foods found a solution, I am sure Fentons and the property owner will find one as well. That is why owners that do not have parking are asked to contribute to a fund for each parking space that is deficient in order to purchase property for parking lots and/or build a parking structure.


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