published Friday, January 30th, 2009

Chattanooga: Theater strives for ‘leeding’ role

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    Staff Photo by Dan Henry -- Construction begins on the new Carmike movie theater at the intersection of Broad Street and Third Street in downtown Chattanooga Thursday morning.
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Jeff Pfitzer

Chattanooga’s new downtown movie theater is going for the Oscar of environmental sustainability.

The developers of the new Carmike theater are striving to make it the nation’s first standalone moviehouse with LEED certification, officials said.

“It’s the right thing to do,” said Jeff Pfitzer, director of special projects for the private, nonprofit downtown redevelopment group RiverCity Co., about the theater on which work started last week.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design status provides standards for environmentally sustainable construction.

Mr. Pfitzer said RiverCity, which is developing the $12 million project and leasing the space to Carmike, is an advocate of sustainable development and environmentally friendly design.

“We’re putting our money where our mouth is,” he said.

In terms of cost, officials don’t expect the LEED effort to have much impact on the project’s budget, Mr. Pfitzer said.

“In some cases, it may save money because of smarter ways to do business,” he said.

WHAT’S NEXT

Carmike’s new downtown theater is slated to open in November. About 30,000 square feet of adjacent commercial space is planned to go up later on the so-called Haney Block.

BIJOU PLANS

The Bijou Theater downtown will close after Carmike’s new moviehouse opens. RiverCity is seeking a tenant for the Bijou site, which could be reused as retail space.

Among steps RiverCity is taking to achieve LEED status include the use of highly reflective roofing material, a stormwater recycling system and recycled building materials, Mr. Pfitzer said.

Haney Block

The 70,000-square-foot theater is going up on a block bounded by Broad, Chestnut, Third and Fourth streets that formerly was a parking lot. For many years, the site held the Haney Building.

The 12-screen theater will have stadium seating, which is lacking at Carmike’s nearby Bijou Theater, which will close after the site opens.

Dale Hurst, a Carmike spokesman, said it’s a matter of keeping up with the latest trends.

“I think Chattanooga deserves the very best we have to offer,” said Mr. Hurst. “Stadium seating is just as important as hot popcorn.”

In addition, he said the theater will have some large auditoriums with bigger screens than the Bijou, which opened in 1996.

“It will be wall-to-wall screens,” said the Carmike official. He added the new theater will be equipped to handle the 3-D movies which are coming out as well.

The theater, built by EMJ Corp. and designed by Artech Design Group, is to open in November. It will hold 2,500 seats compared to the Bijou’s 1,100.

The Bijou property is owned by the Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority.

Tom Dugan, CARTA’s executive director, said the transit agency is in negotiations with RiverCity to make it the developer of the Bijou site.

“They’d replace the rent revenue the Bijou is paying us now,” he said. Mr. Dugan said CARTA and RiverCity are eyeing a shared revenue agreement when a new tenant is brought in.

He sees the old theater becoming retail space, noting its proximity to the Tennessee Aquarium, IMAX Theater and AT&T Field.

But, Mr. Dugan said that with the slow economy, “it’s not a slam dunk” in terms of filling the space.

As for a tenant, Mr. Pfitzer said, “We haven’t fully nailed that down yet.”

about Mike Pare...

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 ...

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