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Posted: 12:00 a.m. Saturday, March 8, 2014

Plans spiked for Middletown movie theater

By Chelsey Levingston

Staff Writer

MIDDLETOWN —

A developer eyeing Middletown to build a 12-screen, state-of-the-art movie theater has terminated its contract with the city, and won’t be opening the cinema after all.

“There was a lack of tenant interest” from a movie theater operator or restaurants for the site near the interstate, said Lamar Fields, a representative of Texas-based Anthony Properties, the developer involved.

Anthony Properties was looking to buy city-owned land for the project, build out the theater and retail space, and lease it to a movie theater chain and other complementary businesses.

Fields did not give a reason for why dining and entertainment venues weren’t attracted to Middletown.

“Hopefully as the economy perhaps begins to improve, that situation there would improve along with it,” Fields said. “There’s not much to say. If you cannot generate tenant interest, you cannot go forward.”

“I will say this, the city certainly did everything they could to help us,” he said.

The change of course is not expected to seriously hurt development near the highway intersection, where the theater was planned, city officials say. Efforts are being made to further develop the area of Ohio 122 and Interstate 75, known as the Renaissance District, with more office, health and retail businesses.

There have been wins and losses. Hampton Inn opened in the same area in 2013.Investors related to Lebanon developers Henkle Schueler & Associates bought land last year with intentions of attracting high-tech industrial and research and development clients, as well as medical-related businesses.

But more recently, Reyton Inn closed. Target store is closing. The new owners of Towne Mall Galleria west of the highway interchange have struggled to land major retail tenants.

“While we had anticipated that the movie theater would help draw services such as restaurants to the interchange, we don’t feel that its pullout will seriously affect development,” said Denise Hamet, Middletown economic development director, in an email. “We have new landowners moving forward to market their sites, new homes being built in the area, and an interchange enhancement project about to start that will add softscaping and hardscaping to the interchange.”

Plans were to build the movie theater west of the interchange near Atrium Medical Center and the Renaissance housing subdivision. In July of last year, City Council approved a contract to sell 18 acres of city-owned land east of I-75, east of Union Road and south of Ohio 122 for the project. The buyer in the deal was Anthony Properties, which specializes in building and leasing movie theater properties across the country. The land sale price would have been approximately $1.5 million.

However, the contract included a due diligence period for further research such as soil testing, traffic studies and marketing for what would have been a $10 million to $12 million investment. Both parties — the city and Anthony Properties — could have backed out of the contract by the end of the time period allowed for vetting. Anthony Properties terminated the deal before the end of 2013, Fields, representing the developer, said.

Since the movie theater development deal fell through, the city has contracted with Cassidy Turley Commercial Real Estate Services to market the city-owned land for office and small commercial development, Hamet said.

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