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Council taking next step forward with movie theater plan

WORTHINGTON -- The Worthington City Council moved closer Monday to completing its Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with PBK Investments LLC to purchase land for a new movie theater.

WORTHINGTON - The Worthington City Council moved closer Monday to completing its Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with PBK Investments LLC to purchase land for a new movie theater.

Preliminary plans show the theater will have four screens with 50 seats and one with 99, bringing the total to 299 seats. If the city goes through with a purchase agreement, it will be built on a 1.1-acre parcel off of U.S. 59 and Bioscience Drive. The council agreed to have the Worthington Event Center take part in a collective parking agreement along with Comfort Suites to allow customers at the theater to park in certain spaces at their parking lots. A city ordinance states the theater must have one off-street parking place per four movie theater seats. With 299 seats, this means roughly 75 parking spots are required. The current plan shows the theater’s parking lot has 68 spaces, so in order to fulfill the MOU, this agreement was necessary.
City staff will move forward with a purchase agreement when the parking agreement is fully executed and detailed construction plans are laid out. Kevin Donovan, a member of the Worthington Regional Economic Development Corp. Board of Directors, spoke for the project, saying that if all went to plan, “a year from now or so or sooner you’ll be watching movies at that area.”

PBK is working with Fullerton Building Systems, which will do the exterior of the building and structural elements. Council member Rod Sankey was concerned about the location of parking at the event center, which is further away from the theater than the Comfort Suites parking lot.

"You really think people are going to park there and cross country over to your theatre?” Sankey said.
Donovan said those spaces likely would not be used, as the combination of the main parking lot and spaces at Comfort Suites lot would probably never be full.
"In the theater business, 99.9 percent of the time, that parking lot is not gonna be full,” Donovan said. “Nobody’s going to be parking at the event center … it’s a formality we had to go through to meet this equation.”
Brian Pellowski, owner of PBK Investments, addressed concerns that 50-seat theaters would not be sufficient.
“I was in Fairmont today to size up the size of the theater and they’re no different than what we’re gonna build here,” Pellowski said. “The difference is in theaters past, 20 years ago, you packed in the same size room, 15 chairs, all packed together, whereas today there’s 50-60 seats in a room. It’s more intimate; they’re all recliners.
“In order for theaters to survive, that is the market that’s going across America,” Pellowski added. “You can’t just have the same thing you had 20 years ago.”
Mayor Mike Kuhle said he’d received a few calls expressing concerns with the preliminary plans.
"One call was ‘is that the best place for a theatre in town?”’ Kuhle said. "You know, the city can’t be in the business of picking winners and losers. If legally, a business fits into that property, the city can’t say no. We can’t get into that business as a city."
Kuhle also said the city and the Minnesota Department of Transportation might want to slow down traffic in the area in order to accommodate people walking and biking to the theater.
Council members, including Diane Graber, voiced their support for the theater.
“I really have to admire your persistence,” Graber said. “Worthington really needs a theater. We have to trust it’s going to happen; we’re excited about that. We cannot lose any more amenities in this town, and this may be a start to actually putting some back into the town.”
In other news, the council also:

  • Approved an application for the Nobles Home Initiative tax abatement submitted by South Lake Development LLC for the construction of a duplex southeast of the intersection of Knollwood Drive and First Avenue Southwest. It’s the first of nine duplexes the developer will be constructing.
  • Approved a storm sewer utility rate increase of 2.5 percent. On average, residential lots will pay 12 cents more per month. The increase in revenue will provide a $72,828 increase in reserves designated for future capital improvements, such as the County Ditch 12 flood mitigation project.
  • Approved the proposed 2017 sewer charge system. The usage charge per 1,000 gallons will increase 2.6 percent for non-industrial users.
  • Approved a lease agreement with Tri-State Truck Wash to utilize unoccupied space on the city-owned parcel that is the site of the 300,000-gallon water tower located on Joosten Road.
  • Approved a burning permit for Wayne Scholtes so he can remove a pile of tree branches that has accumulated on his property located north of South Lake Street.
  • Re-authorized its agreement for the police department to be part of the Child Sexual Predator Program Task Force, which helps police find criminals involved with child pornography. The renewal will be effective through May 31, 2019.
  • Accepted the donation of four park benches. The Winter Family will place a bench in Sunset Park in memory of Charles “Chuck” Winters. The Mike Patrick Memorial Fund will place a bench in Centennial Park, west of the basketball courts, in memory of Mike Patrick. Wayne Klumper will place a bench in Olson Park, along the trail near the disc golf course, in memory of his parents John and Myrt Klumper. Dorothea Klumper will place a bench in Olson Park, along the trail near the disc golf course, in memory of her parents Ken and Ruth Hein.
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