Teatro ZinZanni Prepares For Waterfront Second Act

Teatro ZinZanni, the circus dinner theater that resided at Pier 29 from 2000 to 2011, is coming back to town for good. It revealed plans for its new home at Wednesday night's meeting of the Northeast Waterfront Advisory Group (NEWAG) to the Port of San Francisco.

As we reported earlier, Teatro ZinZanni needed approvals from the Port Commission and the Board of Supervisors for a sole-source waiver to develop the site at Broadway and the Embarcadero, which is currently a parking lot. It handily got the OK from both, buoyed by solid support from all major neighborhood groups in the area.

ZinZanni's theater will be developed in partnership with Kenwood Investments, which will build a 180-room hotel with a ground-floor restaurant on the site, as well as a privately owned public park. Revenue from the hotel side will help subsidize the arts component, which will include not only the dinner theater, but children's educational programs and more.

Architect Mark Hornberger of Hornberger + Worstell presented the current site plan and the most detailed renderings to date, developed with feedback received during community meetings.


The site plan. (Photo: Geri Koeppel/Hoodline)

The most striking feature of the design, which has been discussed many times, is the historic Spiegeltent dating from the 1920s—now in storage—that will be enclosed in a glass gazebo. "Any sound in the tent is really kept inside that glass pavilion,” Hornberger said. The glass will be "fritted" with tiny white dots to retain its transparency, but birds can see it and won't fly into it.

The glass structure will be attached to the three-story, 40-foot hotel, in keeping with zoning height limits in the area. It'll include nine extended-stay rooms for performers. There will be bike parking, but no on-site vehicle parking. Merrill Morris Partners has been retained as landscape architect; the firm's president/principal, Cathy Merrill, sits on the NEWAG as the representative for SPUR.

Hornberger said the rooftop will be "green," and mechanical equipment will be housed in the basement. The street level will be activated, with windows along Davis Street for peeking into the kitchen's operations (It's a more pleasant experience than looking at a dull wall, as anyone who's walked down Pacific Avenue and watched the Cotogna/Quince chefs can vouch.) Glass will be used along the Embarcadero as well, to showcase the restaurant. "It makes it a much more interesting public realm," Hornberger said.

After studying the historic architecture of the neighborhood, the architects came up with two slightly different designs in two shades of brick. One featured arched windows at street level; the other, rectangular windows. Both are being considered, along with gold brick and red brick.


Photo: Geri Koeppel/Hoodline

According to Hornberger, "this will be a building that feels very much like the historic buildings that are real brick buildings, and not like contemporary buildings. The bricks will be thin, uniform in color and fastened on to a substrate.

In addition to ZinZanni, the NEWAG meeting featured a discussion of the request for proposals for the Pier 29 bulkhead, which houses about 20,000 square feet of space that the Port is looking to lease. As previously reported, NEWAG members wanted more input on the process of finding a tenant, and the Port Commission declined to approve the RFP at its November meeting, so the community had time to weigh in. Port staff will invite a NEWAG member to be on the panel and help review RFP proposals.


Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Last night, NEWAG members also asked for a specific description of the desired use for the building. Diane Oshima, planning director for the Port, told us via email that they're seeking someone "that can curate a retail program of locally created or manufactured artisan crafts and goods, that cue from the growth of the small/local manufacturing industry in San Francisco Bay Area."

"This exchange with NEWAG members improved their understanding of the Port’s rationale and need to allow flexibility, by not prescribing a more specific program," Oshima added.

The Port also told NEWAG members that Mayor Ed Lee will be announcing an emergency shelter program for the homeless during the El Niño season, running from roughly mid-December to mid-March. It offered Pier 29 as a place to store materials, and as a last-resort temporary shelter if all other sites were full. We'll have more on that as we get details.

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Teatro zinzanni prepares for waterfront second act