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OAKLAND, CA-The 9,216-sf main level of the historic Lake Merritt Municipal Boathouse will open next spring as a restaurant, café and banquet facility. The City of Oakland has leased the main floor to Chalet Management LLC, which has operated the Beach Chalet Brewery and Restaurant in an historic building in Golden Gate Park for more than a decade.

Chalet signed a 20-year, $3-million lease agreement for the boathouse and will invest at least $2 million improving the space. The 350-seat restaurant overlooking Lake Merritt is expected to open in May 2009. The remainder of the space, in a lower level accessed from the lake site of the building, will be leased out for boat-related uses, such as boat rentals and a rowing club.

The city’s real estate services manager Frank Fanelli tells GlobeSt.com that the Chalet Management’s improvements will be on top of $12 million the City of Oakland is spending to restore the 24,000-sf historic structure and create a regional park on the surrounding land. Much of the expense is attributable to a seismic retrofit being required because of the change in use. The building, which sits on water, also needs to have pier rings replaced, he says.

The project is clearly not a profitable one for the city. Fanelli says the goal was to preserve and reactivate an historic structure, increase public access to the lake and “bring some ambiance to that area,” Fanelli says. “There’s not a four- or five-star restaurant anywhere in the vicinity unless you come to Downtown Oakland,” he says. “It will be a nice amenity for people who live along the lake and will attract people to the lake in general.”

The property is located at 1520 Lakeside Dr., adjacent to the historic Camron-Stanford House, the last remaining Italianate Victorian on Lake Merritt. After work on the building shell is complete, the restaurant tenant will install tenant improvements, and the city will construct the adjacent park and street improvements concurrently, according to a city staff report from June.

Chalet will operate a restaurant in the 5,210-sf former pump house, which has two 2,048-sf wings for a total square footage of 9,216 sf. One of the wings will house a café, the other the banquet space.

Chalet Management scored the highest of all the applicants for the space, according to a city staff report. The company opened its restaurant in Golden Gate Park in 1997, activating a building that had been vacant for 17 years. The restaurant’s success led the company to open the Park Chalet Garden Restaurant, an open-air dining room and bar right behind the Beach Chalet, in 2004.

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