A new Carmike movie theater featuring 12 screens and stadium seating is downtown Chattanooga’s newest coming attraction.
The $12 million project will go up on what is now a parking lot at Broad and Third streets and replace the Bijou Theater nearby, officials said Wednesday.
Construction is to start in December with opening scheduled for November 2009, according to officials with RiverCity Co., the downtown nonprofit redevelopment group.
“Not only will we be building out a key downtown block, we will be re-energizing a critical traffic generator for restaurants and businesses,” said Paul Brock, president of RiverCity.
The new theater, with five screens more than the Bijou, is part of a new 100,000-square-foot mixed-use development on the block, which for many years held the Haney Building. Once completed, the block will hold 30,000 square feet of new commercial space next to the theater, according to RiverCity officials.
The Bijou will be redeveloped into new commercial space, Mr. Brock said.
“The existing theater was a major influence on the resurgence of downtown, and we anticipate the new theater will propel us further,” he said.
The new theater will have 2,500 seats, compared to the Bijou’s 1,100, according to RiverCity. The Bijou opened in late 1996 and does not have stadium seating.
RiverCity, which has a permanent easement on the parking lot where the new theater is being built, will develop the project and lease the new theater space to Carmike for 20 years, said Jeff Pfitzer, RiverCity’s director of special projects.
Mr. Pfitzer said Carmike’s lease at the Bijou ends in December 2009.
The locally based Lyndhurst Foundation and Benwood Foundation are earmarking $1.5 million toward the project, according to RiverCity officials.
Chattanooga and Hamilton County also will be asked for property tax abatements on the non-educational portion of the tax, they said.
The Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority, which owns the Bijou location and the parking deck above it, has reported that attendance at the theater waned after the 2004 opening of the Rave Motion Picture theaters in East Ridge and after Carmike’s theaters at Northgate Mall moved from the mall into their new 14-screen location across the parking lot.
Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield said a downtown theater is important to the overall success of the city.
“The Volkswagen lesson taught us that relocating businesses pay a lot of attention to the vitality of a downtown area,” he said. “The movie theater has been a huge catalyst for after-hours activity.”
Some downtown visitors Wednesday lauded the idea of the new theater.
Skye Challener of Signal Mountain said she doesn’t go to the Bijou because of its lack of stadium seating and limited movie selection, but she would consider the new theater.
“It’s a lot of trouble driving out to the Rave,” she said.
Jennifer Dulin of Chattanooga called the planned moviehouse “a great idea,” but she worried the new development would take up parking some people use for the nearby Creative Discovery Museum.
Allen Corey, chief executive of Gordon Biersch, which has restaurants in the area, said downtowns with entertainment centers are more vital and vibrant.
“Entertainment centers cause people to come together,” he said.
Tom Maynard, general manager of the downtown Lupi’s Pizza, said the Broad Street restaurant may benefit.
“It could bring more people into the downtown area,” he said. “With all the hotels around, it will probably do good.”
Developer and former mayor Jon Kinsey said the theater project will enhance downtown.
“I personally think it’s a great project,” he said.
Officials believe CARTA will benefit from increased revenues for its parking garage, and the new theater should create interest in the Bijou space.
Mr. Pfitzer said RiverCity will partner with CARTA and take responsibility for attracting tenants to its space.
Mike Pare, the deputy Business editor at the Chattanooga Times Free Press, has worked at the paper for 27 years. In addition to editing, Mike also writes Business stories and covers Volkswagen, economic development and manufacturing in Chattanooga and the surrounding area. In the past he also has covered higher education. Mike, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., received a bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida Atlantic University. he worked at the Rome News-Tribune before ...