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Mitch Goltz, co-owner of developer GW Properties, told the RoundTable that the firm is on track to close soon on the purchase of Church Street Plaza, the 200,000 square-feet of properties that include Evanston’s former Century movie theater at 1715 Maple Ave., which has been closed for more than a year.
Plans include reviving the 12 screens on the north side of the theater and repurposing the other six screens as an entertainment, fitness or recreational venue, such as rock climbing. He said plans for the theater site “are in advanced discussion” with a “very strong and nationally known” movie theater company.
Goltz put the time frame for signing a deal, making repairs and reopening the theater “within the next few months.”
Besides the former Century movie theater, Church Street Plaza includes all properties on Maple Avenue between Clark and Church streets. That takes in the current Chili’s, Dogtopia, Blick, Salon Loft, World Market, as well as the former Urban Outfitters and Uncle Dan. On the south side of Church Street, the Plaza includes Noodles, Pure Barre and Trulee. Northwestern Medicine and a Verizon store occupy the Church Street Plaza space across from the movie theater.
“Other new tenants will be coming soon,” Goltz said. Some spaces will be available for leasing and Goltz said he is eager to hear from anyone with ideas.
Despite the pandemic-related downturn, Goltz is optimistic about getting the silver screens operational again. “A year ago there was a lot of uncertainty about the movie industry,” he said. “But theater sales are up. People are eager to get back, we’ve seen it in other markets.”
He said the City was “enthusiastic about bringing to life this trophy asset,” as he called the movie theater. He did not think a lot of work would be needed to get the 12-screen theater up and running. “We’re looking to reposition what’s already here. It’s a great footprint. The bones are here.”
Additionally, the Music Box Theatre in Chicago has made a proposal “related to reopening the theater,” said owner William Schopf. He said the proposal was submitted in May, and he has not heard back from the City.
“It’s a difficult market for everyone, given the performance of movie theaters in the last year and a half,” Schopf said. “We’re bullish, but not everyone is.”
City of Evanston Economic Development Manager Paul Zalmezak said that with the considerable outside interest in the property, “we knew there would be another movie theater.” He said he expects leases to be signed, renovations underway and movies showing “within six months,” which tracks with Goltz’s estimate for the first quarter of 2022.
Cue the projectionist!