Flat(ened) screen? Road imperils Regal renovation
Regal Entertainment Group announced May 1 the renovation of its four-screen theater behind Kmart, adding five additional screens and renaming it Regal Seminole Trail Stadium 9. However, the biggest shocker of this whole enterprise– besides the fact that America was so over-screened a decade ago that most of the major chains (including Regal itself) declared bankruptcy– is that this site has been targeted for a road.
Although technically still in the planning stages, the proposed $30.5 million Hillsdale Drive Extension has already claimed the old Terrace Triple Theater and the Detail Express Car Wash, which were demolished in 2007. The City has also been in talks with Whole Foods about building Hillsdale Drive's Hydraulic Road entrance.
According to a business impact study on the roadway, the Regal would be "negatively impacted the most by the new traffic pattern...with an estimated reduction of 20 percent in sales." Most notably, a preferred pathway appears to run through the Regal and eliminate a third of the theater's parking. In addition, the report says, the "increased traffic congestion will likely deter movie-goers."
However, according to Regal marketing VP Russ Nunley, the company has been "looking for years" for a new theater location, but finally decided to improve on its existing location.
The new theater would include stadium seating, high-back recliner seats, a new lobby, an indoor box-office, kiosks for automated ticket buying, digital surround sound and 3D projection systems, and retractable cup holders to allow for "love seat" seating. Concerts, opera, Broadway shows, and sporting events might be added.
Of course, such plans could have strategic benefits too. While Nunley says that Regal has been aware of "some kind" of proposed road plan–- information on the project, including the impact study, is readily available online at www.hillsdaledrive.org–- he says the company has never been contacted about an approved design plan or a timeline.
"We got tired of waiting," says Nunley. "Since Regal owns the land, we can begin the process and apply for permits this month."
Despite the findings in the study, Nunley expressed hope that the proposed road project would enhance access to the new theater. Nunley says that opening date will be determined by the local permitting process.
"The ball will be in their court," he says. "We want to make this a reality as quickly as possible."
According to Charlottesville Tomorrow, which first broke the story about the road grabbing at least part of the Regal back in November 2007, the state and federal funding that the City is counting on for the Hillsdale Drive project won't be available until at least 2015. In addition, City development services manager Angela Tucker tells CT that the City isn't yet authorized to acquire any rights of way.
"We are bound by a VDOT timeline for state and federal funding so this announcement [from Regal] makes the process more challenging," says City spokesperson Ric Barrick. " We have no plan submission to date so it’s not prudent to speculate on how we may need to adjust the current Hillsdale route."
Public hearings on the design of the project are scheduled for later this year, Tucker told CT.
–-last updated Tuesday, May 5 at 1:32pm