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Update: Queen Creek negotiating to build entertainment district; rendering of theater released; Harkins also plans QC megaplex
This artist's rendering of Maya Cinemas' proposed 14-screen movie theater and entertainment district was received March 27 by the Independent. The company anticipated submitting its designs to the Queen Creek Town Hall Monday, April 1.

Update: Battle for the box office: Harkins Theatres announced Friday it also plans to build a 14-screen movie theater in Queen Creek. According to its website, Harkins Queen Creek 14 will open in fall 2014 in the Queen Creek Marketplace at Ellsworth and Rittenhouse roads.

Queen Creek residents are giving a thumbs up to a proposed movie theater megaplex with an adjoining entertainment district and hotel in the downtown area.

“I’m really excited to have it super close,” Kyndra Westover, 14, a student at Queen Creek High School, told the Independent, referring to the movie theater during a phone interview Wednesday. “It is kind of a hassle to travel so far.”

Kyndra and classmate Jaclyn Funk, 14, usually travel to San Tan Village shopping mall in Gilbert to see movies.

A third classmate, Cody Walker, 18, called the drive “not unbearable but it’s a decent distance.” He would be interested in working at the theater, he said.

“It would be a good opportunity for any kids in the area,” Cody said.

The trio’s teacher, Andrea Colsavi, welcomed the addition of what would be Queen Creek’s first movie theater. As the high school’s drama director and film studies teacher, a nearby theater would be a “positive thing for the town,” she told the Independent.

“It directly affects the composition of my class,” Ms. Colsavi said. “It’s easier to teach about film if the kids have been able to see the movie.”

For the past several months, the town of Queen Creek has been negotiating with Los Angeles-based Maya Cinemas to build a 14-screen movie theater and 170,000-square-foot entertainment district on the southeast corner of Ellsworth Loop and Rittenhouse Road, Doreen Cott, economic development director for the town, told the Independent Wednesday.

“It’s all conceptual at this point,” Ms. Cott said.

Plans for the 20-acre site include the state-of-the-art theater, restaurants, retail shops and a hotel, according to Jon D. Willis, designated broker for Mesa-based Willis Property Company, LC, and the exclusive representative for Maya Cinemas.

He estimated the project will cost $20 million and could employ a couple hundred full- and part-time employees.

Queen Creek would be the first entertainment district built by Maya Cinemas in Arizona.

It is the company’s largest project so far in terms of acreage, Mr. Willis said.

He noted Maya focuses on communities that lack a movie theater.

“We know this will be a home run because there is nothing else out there,” Mr. Willis said. “The closest is San Tan Village mall.”

He said it was too early to divulge the names of the retail offerings, restaurants and hotels being considered; however, he noted the hotel — which would be Queen Creek’s first — would be a “multi-story hotel similar to a Fairfield Inn or Residence Inn.”

He is working with two groups now, he added.

Mr. Willis said the company hopes to begin construction in July with the grand opening a year later.

The company anticipated submitting its designs to the Queen Creek Town Hall Monday, April 1.

Mr. Willis hoped the designs could be scheduled for review by the town’s planning and zoning board “within a month.” However, it could take longer, Ms. Cott told the Independent, because designs go through an extensive staff review before advancing to planning and zoning.

The town is considering a lease-purchase agreement with the company, but details, including lease rates, have not been confirmed, Ms. Cott noted.

The town had been proactively seeking entertainment anchors for the town-owned 20-acre site, which includes an adjacent one acre lot near Maya Road and Ellsworth Loop.

The existing street name — Maya Road — is not related to Maya Cinemas.

The town staff determined three respondents to a request for proposals issued in September 2011 were not, for varying reasons, a good match with the town’s vision for an entertainment center, Ms. Cott said. The town received Maya’s proposal a year later.

“Wow. This would be something great for our community. It would not only provide jobs, but also places we really can go ‘out and about’,” Janean Meyer, founder of the Friends Out and About in Queen Creek social group, told the Independent in an e-mail. “With the group I started for women in the area, this would provide more entertainment without having to leave Queen Creek. I hope this becomes a reality.”

The Independent contacted Vestar Development, the company that developed and manages Queen Creek Marketplace at Ellsworth and Rittenhouse roads, Wednesday to ask what it thought of the possibility of an entertainment district being constructed so close.

Vestar was unaware of the project, Property Manager Deb Wood, said. The Independent had not received the company’s response by press time Friday.

Maya Cinemas’ executives are CEO Moctesuma Esparza, producer of such films as “Selena,” “The Milagro Beanfield War,” “Gettysburg” and “Gods and Generals,” according to imdb.com; and president and chief operating officer Frank Haffar, who oversaw the construction for Edwards Theaters as its vice president of construction, concessions and purchasing.

Maya has multiple theaters in operation in Bakersfield, Salinas and Pittsburg, Calif.

It is in the process of constructing new theater complexes in nine sites in California and Arizona, according to a press release from Mr. Willis.

News Editor Wendy Miller can be contacted at 480-982-7799 and via e-mail at qcnews@newszap.com, or follow her on Twitter @WendyNewszap123.

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