Major Cineplex and Auto Parking Planned for Contra Costa, Calif.

The Planning Board approved a use permit Thursday for a seven-screen cineplex.

Board members said the project is consistent with the city's goal to revitalize downtown and that building the cineplex is the only way to save the adjoining historic Alameda Theatre.

The permit grants the theater developer the right to operate and to build a structure 18 feet taller than the 40-foot maximum allowed without a permit.

The board put conditions on the developer's request to remain open until 3 a.m. for blockbuster film openings. Those events are limited to using the four ground level screens a maximum of 24 times per year, with security provided by the operator.

"There was a lot of support there and a lot of citizens spoke well and eloquently," said developer Kyle Conner.

The city and Conner have worked for five years to devise a plan to save the 1933 Alameda Theatre by building the adjoining seven-screen cineplex and a 350-space garage. The $25 million project will be funded with city redevelopment money and the developer's sources.

Resolution of final design issues with the city and construction drawings will take four or five months, barring an appeal or litigation, Conner said. Construction, which will take about a year, could start in late spring or early summer, he said.

(c) 2005 Associated Press