Arts & Entertainment, Economic Development, and Real Estate

Partners plan $140M downtown movie theater project

April 11, 2016
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partial rendering Studio C! downtown Grand Rapids Loeks Theatres
A partial rendering of the Studio C! movie theater in downtown Grand Rapids, which would be surrounded by a public piazza, retail and residential units. Courtesy Loeks Theatres

At long last, a movie theater project is moving forward in downtown Grand Rapids.

Loeks Theatres and Grand Rapids-based 616 Development announced today a partnership to develop a mixed-use project featuring a nine-screen movie theater called Studio C!, residential units, retail space, community space and a parking ramp.

The site of the project is located on publicly owned land just south of Van Andel Arena on parking lots 4 and 5, which are bounded by southwest Oakes, Ionia and Cherry.

If all goes as planned, the partners hope to break ground between February and June of 2017.

“This is going to be a $140-million project that includes a 900-space parking ramp, about 350 residential units built over two phases and a large public piazza surrounded by about 40,000 square feet of retail space — and oh yeah, it’s going to have a movie theater,” said J.D. Loeks, president, Loeks Theatres.

“Our story comes full circle here. . . . The name itself is a tribute to the accomplishment of Studio 28 and Celebration! Cinema over the previous two generations.”

The project’s first phase, which would cost about $100 million, would be focused on developing the movie theater, 187 residential units and the roughly 20,000-square-foot piazza, which would be intended to serve “in some ways” as “the new heart of the city,” anchored by the theater, Loeks said.

There would be a broad mix of residential unit types designed to serve a number of markets, he said.

“One of the problems we’ll be trying to solve is figuring out workforce housing, making sure that the people who really want to live downtown — which are often the twentysomethings with a lot of school loans — can actually have a place they can afford to live,” Loeks said.

“So, smaller units with a mix that’ll probably include a lot of two-bedrooms as well. For the workforce housing . . . our goal is to get under $1,000 per month in today’s dollars.”

The first phase would also create about 38,000 square feet of retail space and the parking ramp, which would expand the parking supply in the immediate area by about 300 spaces.

Loeks said the project to create a “true community center” for all kinds of live entertainment would feature “big innovations in our food and beverage offerings, unique programming to the community and a bunch of other surprises that will be announced as this project develops.”

“Coming back to our roots, I think it’ll be a place that’ll have a live performance auditorium that’ll enable (us) to do any kind of meetings,” Loeks said. “It could be a venue for LaughFest. It could be for live music. It’ll be an about 400-seat auditorium that fills a niche for a gap for certain kinds of entertainment in Grand Rapids.”

The project’s second phase, which would be about $40 million, would focus on developing a residential tower. More details on the second phase will be announced at a later date.

“This Friday, we’ll be presenting in front of the DDA board, who currently owns the land, and the key deal points of our project to get them to let go of the land and move forward,” Loeks said. “It’ll also show up in front of the Parking Commission, as the city and the DDA will be presenting to the Parking Commission on Thursday the deal for the parking structures.

“There’s some hoops to jump through from MEDC, but we’ve gotten really good feedback from all of these groups. We don’t expect any major hurdles, but there are still things we’ve got to work through.”

Loeks Theatres reached out to 616 Development on the project last June, said Jeff Olsen, director of development, 616 Development.

“Clearly, being the largest project that 616 had ever been presented with, it took us a minute to just get our heads around how massive and game changing this would really be,” Olsen said.

“The opportunity to work with the Loeks family on this full-circle endeavor has been one of the most significant projects that 616 has been a part of.” 

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