Loeks Chain Now Building Near

July 2, 2004
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GAINES TOWNSHIP — Once the site plan is approved a celebration will likely be held for a new first-run cinema going up in the southeast corner of the county.

Celebration Cinema, owned by John Loeks of Jack Loeks Theatres fame, hopes to have a movie complex opening sometime next year on a 13-acre site at Kalamazoo Avenue and the South Beltline. The theater will have 16 auditoriums, 2,600 stadium-type seats, and parking for 850 cars.

The Gaines Township Planning Commission gave its blessing to the theater in late May, meaning all that is left to be approved is the site plan.

Progressive AE, a local architectural and engineering firm, is representing Celebration Cinema through the approval procedure. Progressive AE Senior Vice President Michael Perry told the Business Journal that the process and the public meetings went smoothly.

“The township is really a well-run organization,” he said.

“We were very happy there were a number of residents that were in favor of creating something nice there like this. So it was actually a pretty good process,” he added.

Progressive is also designing the theater, a design that Perry said was similar to the Celebration Cinema at Knapp’s Corner on the East Beltline but also a bit different.

The entry to the South Beltline theater will be raised a tad higher than the one on the East Beltline in order to create a more vibrant entrance.

“The other thing we did was kind of soften the building on the site with a stepped footprint so patrons don’t walk up one big, flat wall,” said Perry.

Progressive is also using masonry on the building that will alternate between lighter and darker color shades.

“It will appear more like boxes being put together, which will reduce the scale versus one big masonry wall. It’s a simple technique, but it should really help,” said Perry.

But there is something about the design that won’t change.

“John Loeks wants to use the same beacon, which has become kind of a brand now for Celebration Cinema. So we will be using a beacon there.”

Research the theater chain did showed that the southeast corner of the county, namely Gaines Township and Kentwood, was a prime location for a cinemaplex. The area around the new Paul B. Henry Freeway, officially known as M-6, has grown in the last decade and more growth is projected over the next decade.

The area’s demographics are expected to support the commercial development planned there. In addition to Celebration Cinema, Meijer, Kohl’s, Target and a number of restaurants are expected to pop up along the highway, which may open by the end of this year.

Celebration Cinema and Jack Loeks Theatres have screens in Grand Rapids, Lansing, Benton Harbor, Mount Pleasant and Muskegon.

Construction bids for the $15 million South Beltline theater haven’t been let yet as Progressive is putting the final design touches on it. Williams & Works is doing the civil engineering duties on the site, which Perry feels is a winner.

“The property is adjacent to M-6. As you’re heading westbound on M-6 and get off the exit ramp and stop, you’re looking right at the entrance to the theater,” he said. “It’s a really nice location with great visibility.”           

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