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Lakes area moviegoers are getting an early look at preliminary plans for a renovated Movies 10 in Baxter, complete with new name — Lakeland Theatre.

The plans were presented to the Baxter Planning and Zoning Commission and recommended for approval. Now the plans will move on for review by the city council.

Brainerd Entertainment Real Estate, Bloomington, recently requested a conditional use permit to expand the theater in Baxter from 10 screens to 12 and convert all existing auditoriums to stadium seating. The theater is at 14145 Baxter Drive, off Excelsior Road and Conservation Drive.

In a letter to the council describing the project, Widseth Smith Nolting reported converting the theater to stadium seating results in a significant reduction in the number of seats within the existing building, but an addition of two auditoriums will allow the theater to stay closer to its current capacity.

“The existing entrance will be updated with a new vestibule and exterior finish updates are also proposed,” wrote Chad Conner of WSN. “The existing pick-up and drop off area will also be shifted to achieve improved pedestrian safety and traffic flow.

“The overall improvements will actually reduce the impervious coverage by nearly 5,000 square feet, and the addition of the new auditoriums and remodel of the existing auditoriums reduce the overall seat count by 128 seats. The existing seating count is 1,609 and the proposed will be 1,481.”

Renovation plans include the addition of a few trees and shrubs for landscaping improvements.

The Movies 10 theater was constructed in 1996. With the proposed changes the number of parking stalls would be reduced by 32 — going from 403 to 371. Staff recommendations included a pedestrian connection to link to the Westgate Mall’s pedestrian connection to its north entrances.

Last fall, Mann Theatres purchased Movies 10 from the new Westgate Mall owners Alan Retkinski and Alex Schleider Schleider, of Westgate Mall Realty Group.

At the time, Steve Mann, president of Mann Theatres, said the plans were to convert the theater from showing 35 mm film to digital for better sound and picture quality and to provide 3-D movie screens. Last summer, Mann Theatres bought out its business partner Texas-based Cinemark Theatres.

Mann Theatres operated the three-screen theater in the Westgate Mall where Book World once was before it moved out to Highway 371. Cinemark Theatres operated the three-screen Westport Cinema, now home to the Hearth Room. In 1995, when Mann Theatres announced it was building its own eight-screen movie theater, Cinemark announced it was leasing a 10-screen theater going up by the Westgate Mall. In the end, believing 18 new screens would saturate the market and limit profits for both theaters, Mann Theatres and Cinemark combined their efforts into a lease agreement at the mall-owned movie house. But a downside of the partnership came with a difficulty in moving forward with renovations as the theater aged.

Steve Mann previously said the renovations at the theater could begin in May. Initial plans call for the movies to continue to be shown during the construction except for 10 days or two weeks when work is done on the lobby.

In addition to the CUP, variances were requested to reduce the rear yard setback by 2 feet and setback from the Excelsior Road right-of-way from 40 feet to 30 feet. Another variance request reduced the number of interior parking lot islands.

The Westport Mall is seeking a conditional use permit for a planned unit development and a variance reducing the required parking lot setback from 10 feet to zero from the Conservation Drive right-of-way. The variance request also sought a reduction in the parking lot setbacks from the rights-of-way on Baxter Drive and Fairview Road. The Westport Mall requested a reduction in the building setback from Conservation Drive for a change from 40 feet to 19 feet.

Carpet One, St. Cloud, plans to join the Radio Shack, sharing the Radio Shack’s building along Highway 371 North.

RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at 855-5852 or Follow on Twitter @Dispatchbizbuzz.

Renee Richardson
Richardson is a Pacelli High School graduate from Austin, Minn., who earned an applied science degree from the University of Minnesota, Waseca, with an emphasis in horse management. She worked extensively in the resort industry. She received an associate’s degree from Central Lakes College, where she was editor of the Westbank Journal student newspaper, as well as a summer intern at the Dispatch. She graduated from St. Cloud State University summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and interned at the St. Cloud Times covering business while attending SCSU. She's been with the Brainerd Dispatch since 1996.
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