New movie theater may debut in old Macy’s site on Route 9 in Newton
Newton’s shuttered Macy’s building may soon be coming back to life, this time as a high-end movie house.
WS Development has begun removing asbestos from the former store at the Chestnut Hill Shopping Center on Route 9 and plans to begin full-scale construction as soon as next month, said Dick Marks, an executive vice president and a partner at the firm.
However, the opening of the new theater would eventually trigger the closing of AMC’s five-screen cinema complex, since there is room for only one theater in the shopping center, Marks explained.
The decision to move forward comes as WS Development finalizes a lease with a theater company to move into the renovated Macy’s building.
The new theater is slated to open by the spring of 2013, Marks said. He declined to name the operator until the deal is complete.
The redevelopment of the site, which has been empty since Macy’s pulled out early last year, would kick into high gear a now years-long, $50 million effort by Newton-based WS to revitalize the aging shopping center.
Legacy Place in Dedham, one of WS’s showcase projects, is a model for what the developer hopes to accomplish with its remake of the shopping center, Marks said.
“We are taking what really was a 1960s-era shopping center and converting it to a pedestrian-friendly place where shoppers want to be,’’ he said.
The remake of the shopping center takes place as New England Development prepares to turn the old Omni Foods plaza on the other side of Route 9 into a retail, restaurant, and medical office complex called Chestnut Hill Square. It will be anchored by a Wegmans.
Since buying the center in 2002, WS has spent much of the past decade laying the groundwork for a major revamp, putting in a larger Star Market in 2008 and renovating a small strip of stores.
Now the developer is poised to step up the center’s transformation with the redevelopment of two of the complex’s biggest blocks of retail space.
The new movie venue would feature seven theaters of 100 seats each, Marks said. Moviegoers would be able to order dinner from their seats.
The building would also include a health club, a lease for which is also in the final stages, Marks said. The health club, as well as the theater, would go on the second floor, which has 80,000 square feet.
The first floor, which has about 40,000 square feet of space, would feature a mix of restaurants and retail shops.
“I think they are ready to move ahead,’’ said Candace Havens, Newton’s planning and development director. “It’s the next piece of the upgrade.’’
By fall, work should begin on a second project, which would replace the current City Sports building with a three-story office building that would include space for WS’s new corporate headquarters. City Sports and Century Bank, the building’s current tenants, would be relocated within the shopping center, Marks said.
There are also plans to create more of a welcoming façade and new landscaping around the complex, including what is now clearly the back end of the center, facing toward Route 9. “There is not going to be a back anymore,’’ Marks said.
Still, the final piece of the shopping center’s renovation won’t come until the new cinema opens and the current AMC complex closes. Asked about the theater’s closing, an AMC spokesman declined to comment.
Scott Van Voorhis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.