October 14, 2014 – Norman Langill, Founder, Producer and Artistic Director of Teatro ZinZanni, told the Port Commission today that Teatro ZinZanni is working with Kenwood Investments, LLC to develop a new permanent home along the Port’s seawall property, in its efforts to return to San Francisco.
“Teatro ZinZanni has been eager to re-open in San Francisco ever since taking down our magical mirrored spiegeltent on New Year’s Day 2012. We enjoyed eleven years as a successful cultural offering for 800,000 visitors, a partner with many local charities, a tourist attraction, and a reliable Port tenant on Pier 27/29. With the unending encouragement of thousands of fans as well as a great deal of help from our alumni, neighbors, partners and local officials, Teatro ZinZanni has been working ever since to return to the waterfront in San Francisco.”
Now, in partnership with San Francisco real estate company Kenwood Investments, LLC, Teatro ZinZanni is making plans to re-open in a new permanent home on Broadway and the Embarcadero, at Sea Wall Lot 324. The new location will feature the world-famous antique jewel box spiegeltent, a new four-story boutique hotel and artist residence, and an intimate pocket park to provide sanctuary from the bustle of the busy neighborhood.
In considering a return to a waterfront site, Teatro ZinZanni listened to the concerns and solicited the suggestions of neighborhood groups and City agencies. They were clear: stay within the height restrictions, build a permanent theatre true to San Francisco’s unique cultural history, design the building to conform to the criteria of the Embarcadero and Northeast Waterfront Historic District, and develop the site to serve as a welcoming gateway to North Beach and Chinatown.
Teatro ZinZanni began an initial design process soon after learning that the site on Pier 27/29 would have to close, but we discovered that the total cost of the design, permitting, and construction necessary to rebuild Teatro Zinzanni as a stand-alone structure would be at least five times the original cost to build on Piers 27/29. Financing the construction of a theatre cabaret with a ten-year lease on another lot proved impossible.
In 2013 we went back to the drawing board and consulted with arts institutions and development experts, both locally and around the country. We were strongly advised to develop a multi-use facility in order to amortize the cost of building. Recognizing our limitations as a developer of such a project, we asked Darius Anderson, CEO of Kenwood Investments, LLC, a partner with whom ZinZanni has had a relationship since our founding in San Francisco, to help us with plans for a new site. Teatro Zinzanni has partnered with Kenwood Investments, LLC to design, build and operate a permanent facility that will meet all of ZinZanni’s needs as a theatre and also include artist residencies and a boutique hotel, serving the public and providing new tourism and job opportunities on the waterfront.
The new plans showcase Teatro ZinZanni’s century old Belgian spiegeltent – the Palais Nostalgique — at the heart of a LEED-certified four-story, forty foot hotel building. The northerly end of Seawall Lot 324 will be designed as a park where public events could be staged, with a daytime outdoor café. The speigeltent will be housed in a glass-walled gazebo, with the backstage hallways visible to pedestrians walking on the Embarcadero. This plan meets Teatro ZinZanni’s artistic and operational needs; it makes the project financially viable for the Port and for Teatro ZinZanni’s partnership; and it stays within the City’s 40-foot height limit for the area.
“Re-opening in our new home, Teatro ZinZanni will continue to honor San Francisco’s unique theatrical history of live, zany, funny and beautiful varieté theatre. During the Gold Rush, the first professional performance in San Francisco was Rowe and Co.’s Pioneer Circus, offering a variety of acts including opera, ballet and comedy. The first permanent theater in San Francisco combined French vaudeville, musical numbers, and “Yankee stories.” Later the Tivoli Opera House opened with the first dinner theatre in the West, entertaining audiences with opera and feeding them cheese sandwiches and beer. We believe that Teatro ZinZanni is the natural, living descendent of this tradition and we are committed to celebrating this history as we dedicate ourselves to creating new shows –full of opera, comedy, vaudeville, stories and musical numbers–for the old and new audiences of San Francisco.”
Teatro ZinZanni’s legendary spiegeltent – the Palais Nostalgique – was constructed just after the turn of the century by Willem Klessens and is still owned by the same family. Only a dozen or so of these antique European cabaret tents survive today, and the Palais Nostalgique is one of only a few that is still in pristine nearly original condition – having survived WWII buried deep underground to escape wartime destruction.
From its opening in March of 2000 to the closing night on Pier 27/29 on December 31, 2011, Teatro ZinZanni was acclaimed not only as a jewel in the San Francisco’s cultural crown but also as a significant contributor to the local tourism economy. Approximately 800,000 people entered the magical world hosted by Madame ZinZanni during Teatro ZinZanni’s first incarnation on the waterfront. Over the years, the organization helped raise more than $2,000,000 for charitable organizations such as Huckleberry House, Bread and Roses Family Foundation, Suicide Prevention League and Habitat for Humanity.
Now, in cooperation with the Port of San Francisco, City officials, Kenwood Investments LLC, and many neighbors and fans, Teatro ZinZanni is preparing to raise the spiegeltent, open the doors, and write a new chapter on the Barbary Coast.