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Movies 10 expansion project gets final approval

BAXTER — Moviegoers can officially cheer as the Baxter City Council on Tuesday gave final approval of the Movies 10 theater expansion project.

The council approved the conditional use permit plans for a $4 million to $4.5 million renovation of the Movies 10 theater that calls for adding two auditoriums and remodeling the existing 10 auditoriums.

The entire renovation is planned in three parts. The first phase will feature a new lobby, which will change how people access the theater. Phase two will be to renovate the existing auditoriums into stadium seating. Phase three is the expansion, adding two auditoriums to the west of the existing building. State-of-the-art projection systems and new screens are part of the update.

Steve Mann, president of Bloomington-based Mann Theatres, attended the meeting, but never was addressed to speak. Mann earlier told the Dispatch that people will be amazed when they see the finished project.

The main concern council members discussed was parking.

Bill Deblon, Baxter community development director, said that even though the theater will expand to two auditoriums, the parking itself will not increase. The permit will reduce the number of seats from 1,609 to 1,481, and as a result, the required number of parking stalls will be reduced from 403 to 371, which is 32 less stalls, Deblon said. Deblon said the city’s ordinance calls for one parking stall for four seats in the theater.

Deblon said there also will be more interior parking islands on the site that will reduce stormwater runoff and increase traffic safety. The Planning and Zoning Commission recommended that at least one shade tree be planted in each interior parking island, but the council agreed that two such trees be planted.

One of the conditions of the permit is that a pedestrian crosswalk must be installed to connect the movie theater and the new Westgate Mall pedestrian connection.

Council member Rod Moser said that when the Utilities Commission discussed the trail and sidewalk connections, having a main pedestrian crosswalk between the mall and theater would be more pedestrian friendly than just the stop sign that’s there now.

Moser said that once the renovations and additions are complete, the theater will look “pretty nice.” Moser said that with more parking islands to offer green space and a pedestrian walk, it will be much nicer than the current site, which is all asphalt.

At the end of the meeting, council member Mark Cross said he was concerned for the pedestrians and said he’d like to see a better separation between the crosswalk and the street.

As part of the theater plans, the council also approved variances that will reduce the rear yard setback of the existing building from 30 to 28 feet and the Excelsior Road right-of-way setback from 40 to 30 feet to allow for the addition. The council also approved the exterior materials for the proposed addition and remodel to the existing Movies 10 building.

In other city business, the council tabled matters pertaining to the Westport Mall project as more details need to be worked out.