Mountain View Voice

News - September 20, 2013

Century movie theater redevelopment must wait

by Daniel DeBolt

Despite protests from the developer, a proposal to redevelop the Century 16 movie theater on North Shoreline Boulevard with a new theater, fitness resort, hotel and offices will have to wait while city officials consider larger land use issues in the area, City Council members said Tuesday

In a 3-3 vote, with Mike Kasperzak absent, there was not enough support on the council to allow the project to move forward before a precise plan for North Bayshore is adopted, probably in late 2014. The precise plan will determine where higher density buildings will be allowed in North Bayshore as the city makes an effort to keep development away from wildlife habitat.

A spokesperson for developer SyWest Enterprises said that there would be 950 fewer seats in the new 16-screen theater, reduced in size from 90,000 to 64,400 square feet, while the family-oriented fitness resort would be 88,000 square feet.

A second phase of the project would add a hotel, parking structures and office space to the 15.35 acre site, which does not include the buildings that house Sports Page, Sunny Bowl, Cheryl Burke Dance studios and Laser Quest, among other small businesses around the theaters. The city's new general plan allows for up to eight stories.

Council members were split on whether to move forward, with some saying they didn't want to miss out on the opportunity for a new theater and dedicated bicycle lane through the property on Shoreline Boulevard and others saying they wanted to honor a previous vote to not allow development planning ahead of the precise plan.

Elizabeth Puccinelli of SyWest said the city had a "window of opportunity" to see the property redeveloped, and noted that there were "linkages" the city would want as part of the project.

"They (Cinemark, the theater's operators) are a business and they need to make a decision," Puccinelli said. "There needs to be a clear and direct process we can go through. If we are waiting until the end of 2014, or if schedules slip and the precise plan isn't adopted until 2015, then we are unable to indicate there is this clear and precise process to go forward."

Council members asked why the existing theater couldn't be renovated and updated, or for the new theater to move forward by itself.

"The economics just aren't there for a brand-new theater. I'm not going to get the return, especially in a smaller footprint," Puccinelli said. "I need to add the additional business opportunities to make it economically viable."

Puccinelli said Cinemark would likely keep the theaters as is for 10 more years, until Cinemark's lease agreement is expired. Council members complained that the sound system in the theaters was terrible, causing many residents to seek out newer theaters in Santa Clara and Cupertino.

Council member Jac Siegel expressed an opinion shared by members Ronit Bryant and John McAlister.

"I've seen windows of opportunity come and come and go and go," Siegel said. "Developers say, 'If you don't allow us to do it now, it's not going to happen.' I have a hard time with that. I think negotiations are always possible. They could still do it if its going to take another 12 months. This is so critical, such a critical piece of property. We really need to take the time to do it right."

Other members of the council didn't see how the precise plan would change the project significantly.

There's less risk in allowing the project to be planned than to wait for the precise plan, said council member Chris Clark.

Email Daniel DeBolt at ddebolt@mv-voice.com

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