A site plan by a second theater chain has been approved by the Queen Creek Planning and Zoning Commission. The proposal will be reviewed next by the Queen Creek Town Council; that date has not been announced.
On June 12, commissioners unanimously approved a request to rezone a site in the Queen Creek Marketplace, on the southwest corner of Rittenhouse and Ellsworth Loop roads, as well as a site plan for a 14-screen Harkins Theatres multiplex that would be built there in the southeast corner of Ellsworth and Ellsworth Loop roads.
Harkins Theatres is a family-owned, Arizona-based chain that has 26 theaters in Arizona, as well as theaters in California, Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas, according to its website.
Queen Creek Marketplace was represented at the commission meeting by Ralph Pew, a lawyer with Pew and Lake, PLC, a Mesa-based real estate and land use law firm.
The request asked that the 14.5-acre parcel be rezoned from C-2 General Commercial Zoning to TC, Town Center to allow for a movie theater, which is not allowed in the C-2 zoning district, according to a town paperwork. It also requested an increase in the building height to allow for a 60-foot-tall spire at the front of the building that would extend 15 feet above the height of the parapet, in addition to allowing exposed neon to the exterior of the Harkins building as architectural lighting.
The site plan shows a 64,000-square-foot, 14-screen movie theater; a 20,000-square-foot retail building, and three additional buildings that are about 7,500 square feet each that could be used for retail or restaurants.
The agreement also calls for a public art element to be included. The final design and location of the artwork would be approved by the town staff.
The commission also asked the applicant to work with town staff to create an additional pedestrian pathway between the shops to the north of the theater and the theater itself.
Commissioner Ryan Nichols expressed his concern about accommodating the “congregations of youths” expected to gather before and after film showings.
“That is a key customer” of Harkins, Mr. Pew responded, adding that an assembly area typical of other Harkins’ locations was planned for the front of the building to allow for pick-ups and drop-offs.
The site was originally planned for a 170,000-square-foot JC Penney retail store. Since the new plans call for smaller buildings, the number of parking spaces available would exceed the required amount by 396, according to town paperwork.
Ryan Desmond, the director of acquisitions and development for Vestar, the company that operates Queen Creek Marketplace, said after the meeting that he was “ecstatic” the site plan was approved.
He said Vestar is committed to delivering certain construction improvements, such as parking and lighting, so Harkins can begin construction on its theater and meet its projected opening date of late September 2014.
All seven members of the Planning and Zoning Commission attended the June 12 meeting. They are: Chairman Steve Sossaman, Vice Chairman Steve Ingram, and commissioners Gregory Arrington, Alex Matheson, Mr. Nichols, Kyle Robinson and Alan Turley.
The approval follows on the heels of the proposed Maya Cinemas entertainment complex, whose phase one site plan was unanimously approved by the council on June 5.
If completed as planned, the complex would occupy a 19-acre parcel of town-owned property north of Maya Boulevard, south of Rittenhouse Road, east of Ellsworth Loop Road and west of Ellsworth Road, according to a staff report to the council.
Phase one of the three-phase plan includes a 59,000-square-foot, 2,300-seat theater; 7,500 square feet of restaurants, retail space and parking, according to the report.
The town would serve as landlord for the Maya Cinemas project, but could negotiate a sale or lease of the property, according to Wayne Balmer, the town’s planning administrator.
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