After a few fits and starts, it's nearly show time for a 17-screen movie theater complex planned for the Boulevard near Scott's Addition.
New York-based Bow Tie Partners plans to break ground next week on its Boulevard Square project, which includes a multiplex theater and retail shops in the former Richmond Steel property.
Bow Tie co-founder Charley Moss foresees city approval of his company's plan to develop the nearly 11-acre property at Boulevard and Leigh streets in advance of the Nov. 27 groundbreaking.
"We're going to rock and roll from there," says Moss, who expects the project to stick to an opening date of sometime next year. Moss co-founded Bow Tie with his son, Ben Moss.
That the plan is moving forward is good news to City Council President Bill Pantele, who's taken a personal interest in the economic-development project located in his district.
"While it's frustrating to see things move so slowly, this is the first of many announcements I expect to see along the Boulevard," says Pantele, calling the project a "re-emergence" both for the Boulevard corridor and for Richmond. "This is going to be a pretty substantial operation. It's hard to believe, but the city of Richmond, the capital of Virginia, doesn't have any first-run movie screens."
Bow Tie plans to convert a former locomotive assembly plant into downtown's only first-run theater. It was initially planned to include 12 screens, but "tweaking" has increased the number of planned screens, Moss says.
The building's former occupant, Richmond Steel, moved to Chester in the summer.
It's too early to shop the project to tenants, Moss says of the planned 53,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space: "But these are fantastic restaurant locations, so I'm not concerned about that."
Moss says he's also unconcerned by political turbulence in Richmond, declines in theater attendance or some grim predictions about the national economy.
"We're doing something unique here that's truly apolitical," Moss says of the planned theater, which builds on the popular experiential consumer trends that have propelled Starbucks and Panera Bread to the top of their markets.
Part of the experience at Boulevard Square will be Bow Tie's preservation and incorporation of the old locomotive assembly plant's features into its design. "It will look like it was when it was built," he says. "We're making a lot of effort to retain the character and the look of the building -- inside and out." S