XENIA — It’s the million dollar question in Xenia these days. Are an entertainment center and movie theater still coming to Towne Square?
City Manager Brent Merriman answered that question loud and clear Tuesday.
“There’s going to be a project,” he said.
Will it include just the entertainment center and when it will begin and be completed are the unknowns.
But, “This is our top priority,” Merriman said. “We would be hopeful (the developer) will begin that project in the near future.”
The total estimated cost of the entertainment center is more than $3 million.
The idea of an entertainment center was broached last year. In August, the city authorized Merriman to enter into an agreement with Creative Entertainment Concepts in Indianapolis to do a feasibility study at the vacant Fulmer grocery store in Xenia Towne Square. The city owns the land and has long-term leases with building owners.
On Sept. 5, CEC executed a 10-year lease with Fulmer building owner R&B Investments with the intention of moving forward with turning the location into an entertainment center.
Also in September, another contract was approved for a similar study to potentially bring a movie theater where Kmart was located. That $10,000 contract brought the city’s total investment to $25,000.
CEC proposed a bowling alley, laser tag, an arcade, and sports bar, which would include outdoor seating, for the nearly 30,000 square foot Fulmer building, vacant since July 2010. The K-mart building would be razed and an an eight-screen, state-of-the-art theater with seating for 1,100 would be constructed.
In February councilmen John Caupp and Dale Louderback announced that they would be investing in the project and were hired by the management company with Caupp serving as general manager and Louderback serving as theater operations director. Both said they would excuse themselves from further project discussions and votes in order to eliminate any conflicts of interest. However, the city did refer the situation to the Ohio Ethics Commission — which has yet to make any public comment — and is looking into whether the pair violated the city charter.
In April, council approved the sale of 5.62 acres of Towne Square for $1 to Genesis Development Partners, which would then purchase and help facilitate the demolition of Kmart to make way for theater. The eight-page real estate purchase contract stipulates that the city and Genesis must enter into a tax increment financing (TIF) agreement, which includes Xenia Community Schools, and that Genesis should have a binding development agreement with “a third party entity acceptable to the city” for purchase of part of the property for the demolition of the current building and the construction of the theater.
The contract has yet to be executed, Merriman said. Other conditions, according to Merriman, include site plan and tenant mix approval.
Where does it go from here?
The entertainment center project could start anytime, Merriman said. CEC is still trying to capitalize the project before it can begin work. David Beauregard, CEO of Creative Entertainment Concepts could not be reached for an update on the project’s status and the potential involvement of Caupp and Louderback.
There are some challenges with regards to the movie theater, Merriman said. A major investor and management company have withdrawn from the project which set back the entire project. Also, CEC no longer has an active role in the theater discussion, according to Merriman.
Genesis partner Jeff Piatt would not comment on project specifics other than to say his company is still “100 percent” involved and “100 percent” excited.
The city is still committed as well.
“We really love the concept of meeting the community’s desire for a movie theater,” Merriman said. “We are still very much trying to keep a theater component to the project.”
Merriman said there are several dominoes that need to fall for the project to happen.
Genesis would need provide a plan for commitments on the number and type of buildings related to redevelopment and the proposed tenants who would lease this space. The city can then finalize TIF calculations and work to execute the TIF agreement and ordinance and income tax revenue sharing agreement with the schools and once those are finalized, Merriman can execute the purchase agreement with Genesis. Genesis will execute its option and purchase the building and land lease from building owner Zenia Investments.
If that doesn’t happen, Merriman said the city will pursue the theater elsewhere in Xenia.
More development is planned for Towne Square as well. Preliminary ideas include out-lot retail in the front along Main Street and an extension of Galloway Street.
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.
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