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Cinemark to move forward at former Alamo Drafthouse site

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Artist's rendering of the Cinemark Movie Bistro set to open this summer. 

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Silence might not always be golden, particularly when it came to the large movie theater project that stalled for six years in Edinburg, but now has a chance at new life — only without the Alamo Drafthouse name.

Cinemark, the major chain that operates more than 460 movie theaters worldwide and is the dominant theater player in the Rio Grande Valley, announced its plans for the massive vacant building at the corner of Jackson Road and Trenton Road on Friday.

The McAllen broker for the San Antonio property owner, B-Y Properties, confirmed a long-term lease was signed by the company this week.

The Edinburg location will be one of two new six-screen movie theaters from Cinemark as it breaks into its new concept called Cinemark Movie Bistro. Officials involved believe the shell will allow the theater to open more quickly than the other El Paso location, thereby making the city the home of the company’s first-ever dinner theater.

City officials said the project initially plagued by misfortune — such as the bankruptcy of its developer and ensuing inability to find another buyer — will be the catalyst to fill the now empty 100,000 square foot shopping plaza with other businesses to flank the theater in its center.

Edinburg EDC executive director Nelda Ramirez said the project will bring 80 full-time jobs and more than $1 million in capital investment from the property owner and Cinemark for site improvements.

“It’s going to be a nice project,” she said.

Ramirez said it’s projected that over a period of five to seven years sales taxes from the theater alone will reach $2 million.

The property, including the building, has a preliminary 2013 assessed value of more than $2.9 million — down from more than $5 million in 2008.

Patrons will be able to order microbrewed beers, premium wines, margaritas, and sodas and choose from an expanded food menu that includes fresh wraps, hot sandwiches, burgers and pizzas, alongside typical theater fare like popcorn, hot dogs and candy.

The theater is scheduled to open this summer, the company said.

The Alamo Drafthouse project was first announced in late 2005, but it failed to meet its first publicly announced deadline of completion by March 2007.

Work on the building halted completely soon thereafter and left an empty shell. The following year the project’s developer, Paul Garza, faced foreclosure after borrowing more than $10.2 million against the property, Monitor archives show.

In November 2010, the building was sold to B-Y Properties, which owns the entire Trenton Crossroads Plaza development where it is located.

Edinburg Mayor Richard Garcia said the city was never left holding the bag when it came to the project, but acknowledged the difficulty in attracting a buyer. He said so much time had passed the technology installed was outdated.

 “It’s tough to have someone come in to buy when the note was $10 million and there was at least $4 and a half to $5 million to finish the project,” Garcia said on Saturday.

He said the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation will reimburse on the development only when the project is completely finished, though he could not cite exact figures.

“The City of Edinburg does not front up money,” he said. “We don’t have one penny into it at this point.”

Still, he said the Trenton Crossroads Plaza development itself has been a success despite the large vacant building taking up the back portion of the site. The theater will be something unique to the entire county, he said.

“I think this is going to push it over top,” Garcia said. “It’s not a question of relief. It’s a question of excitement.”

Edinburg City Manager Ramiro Garza said interest is already there to fill up the remaining space in the building, though he couldn’t disclose specific businesses.

The area on Trenton Road sees some 90,000 cars per week and the growing area needs such venues, he said.

Johnny Cisneros, of Cadence Commercial Real Estate in McAllen, was the broker acting on behalf of B-Y Properties.

He said Alamo Drafthouse made a verbal commitment, but dropped out three months after the company bought the property.

In June 2011, Cinemark’s CEO visited the site and passed, but showed interest again in January 2012.

“It took a year, really, for us to get to this point,” he said. “There’s still work to be done we’ll know more once we’re under construction.”

Cisneros declined to disclose the financial terms of the deal, but said summer is the opening target date because blockbusters are released during the season.

He stressed that B-Y Properties isn’t associated with the previously failed development attempt.

“We hope that they will be there when my grandkids are ready to see a movie,” the father of two young children said of Cinemark.

 

OPTIMISTIC FUTURE?

On Saturday, the Alamo Drafthouse sign still hung on the unfinished building with one wing open to the elements and the other flanked by stacks of concrete bricks and a ladder.

Amanda Torres, an Edinburg resident shopping at the nearby CVS, said the empty building seemed like a waste of money

“I’m excited because I used to live in San Antonio so I’m familiar with the Alamo Drafthouse. I really like it and I think it’s going to be a new experience for the Valley,” she said.

Local business owners within the shopping development said they’re counting on more foot traffic.

Charlie Olmos, owner of Pokey’s Planet adult store, said he had observed more activity than usual at the site recently.

“It’s a high traffic street, but there’s not enough businesses,” Olmos said, noting his store opened there a few months ago. “Everybody in the plaza has been waiting for it to open up. Everybody’s been trying to wait and wait see how long it was going to take because some of the newer businesses like us have been struggling.”

Next door, the owners of Lanadee’s restaurant, which opened there seven months ago, echoed the sentiment.

“I’m hoping that once this building opens up people will also notice us,” Marisela Luna, who owns the business with her husband Ismael, said.

Mission resident Rene Garza spent part of his Saturday at the Applebee’s within the development.

“It’s going to be something different,” he said of the new theater. “It was kind of sad that construction stopped and then they were having all kinds of problems.”

Jacqueline Armendariz covers law enforcement, courts and general assignments for The Monitor. She can be reached at jarmendariz@themonitor.com and (956) 683-4434.

3 images

Courtesy

Artist's rendering of the Cinemark Movie Bistro set to open this summer. 

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