Entertainment Complex to Anchor Morganton Project
BY TED M. NATT JR. and JOHN CHAPPELL
Pilot Staff Writers
The Van Camp family has unveiled its conceptual master plan for a major retail development south of Morganton Road in Southern Pines that would be anchored by a large grocery store and the proposed IMAX theater entertainment complex.
The project, which would be constructed in two phases, was presented Wednesday to the Southern Pines Town Council at its monthly agenda meeting.
"The first phase is the grocer-anchored center and the second phase is the existing theater expansion," said Dave Crisafulli, principal at Vardon Advisors in Southern Pines. "We are currently in negotiations with representatives for the grocer and theater, but they are mutually exclusive opportunities and neither has been signed yet."
Bruce Frank, president and CEO of Frank Theatres, said the company plans to rename Sandhills Cinema 10 to Frank Theatres, add three more movie screens, and build a new 300-seat IMAX theater.
"We're starting this spring with an exterior renovation (to the current complex)," Frank said Thursday. "Then an interior renovation will include a new lobby, new concession counters, and a food and wine cafe in which wine and beer and finger foods are available - a 21-and-over lounge."
Frank said the IMAX theater and new screens will be part of a large entertainment complex coming under the family's Revolutions brand.
"Revolutions is a 24-lane bowling center, a sports stadium dining room called 'Red Brick Grille,' and about a 50- or 60-game arcade with billiards," Frank said. "We'll also have a Vegas-style showroom called 'Live' used for comedy acts, tribute bands and legitimate theater."
Frank said the multi-million-dollar expansion includes $1 million just for the IMAX theater.
"IMAX has the most loyal customers in the industry. They see 80 percent of the IMAX films released," he said. "They are the most loyal moviegoers in the industry and provide as much as 30 percent of the domestic box office, even though there are only 400 IMAX screens in the country."
Frank said licensing agreements guarantee IMAX theaters a restricted area.
"They wouldn't give one to Fayetteville," he said. "I got there first."
The new construction and additional parking spaces will come on land currently owned by the Van Camps.
Crisafulli is working with that family and Charlotte-based Lincoln Harris to develop the project, which is part of the Morganton Park concept that encompasses land owned by the family on both sides of Morganton Road.
"There's roughly 200 acres," Crisafulli said.
Caviness & Cates, a Fayetteville-based developer, unveiled plans last July for a $20 million apartment complex on the north side of Morganton Road. The Legends at Morganton Road would feature 288 luxury apartments and a clubhouse with hotel-like amenities.
"That project is moving forward," Crisafulli said. "Basically, Caviness & Cates is waiting for final state approvals for water and sewer. We're hoping to close this quarter and start moving dirt. That's the goal."
The apartment complex is located on 18 acres of the 115-acre tract, directly across Morganton from Brucewood Road.
Mayor David McNeill said the Town Council has evaluated "a number" of proposals for the south side of Morganton Road in recent years.
"This version, in my opinion, is the best I've seen so far because of the linkage that it provides to Henley Street and with Southern Pines Village on Brucewood Road," McNeill said. "It also provides for future development opportunities in the back part of the property."
McNeill said he was also excited about the IMAX project.
"Developing a new entertainment area that complements and enhances Sandhills Cinemas would be an asset to the town and provide better traffic flow and parking for the existing building and any future expansion," he said.
David Connor, a senior vice president for Lincoln Harris in Raleigh, said signing the anchors will be crucial.
"Landing the IMAX theater could be a great catalyst for us," Connor said. "But if these guys don't happen, the deal doesn't happen. They don't call them anchors for nothing."
Frank said renovating the current theater complex will come first, with the expansion to follow. Expansion means local audiences won't miss Academy Award-nominated pictures, and there will be room for art audiences and foreign films.
"We will dedicate one auditorium to art, to foreign and Academy films," he said. "With 14 screens, we can do that."
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at (910) 693-2474 or tnatt@the
Contact John Chappell at (910) 783-5841 or jfchappell @gmail.com.
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