Coming soon to a development near you... Towson's newest movie theater.
Cinemark will operate a 16-screen movie theater at Towson Circle III, developers and county officials announced Friday.
County Executive Kevin Kamenetz broke out the popcorn, soda and candy for the announcement at the historic courthouse in Towson.
"Big screen movies are coming back to downtown Towson in a big way, and we are really thrilled to welcome Cinemark to Towson," Kamenetz said. "It's really a great coup for Cinemark to come to Towson and offer that quality product to the entire region."
Developers expressed particular pride in signing Cinemark, one of the world's largest theater chains, with 431 theaters in the U.S. and Latin America. Towson Circle III will be Cinemark's second location in Maryland. In 2009, Cinemark bought the 28-screen theater at Arundel Mills Mall.
"We're very very fortunate to get the best of the best," said Blake Cordish, vice president of the Baltimore-based Cordish Companies, which is developing Towson Circle III with Towson-based Heritage Properties.
The new theater will include 16 wall-to-wall screens and 3,200 stadium-style seats, along with a high-end "XD Extreme Digital Auditorium." Cinemark Marketing Director Bryan Jeffries said the number of screens will allow the theater to screen blockbusters alongside independent films, Ultimate Fighting Championship fights, opera performances and other fare.
The $85 million Towson Circle III development is slated to be built on a 4.2-acre plot bounded by East Joppa Road, Virginia Avenue, Delaware Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue. The site is currently home to a small vacant office building and a former Burger King.
The project's funding includes a $6.2 million county grant to the revenue authority to build the parking garage and $2 million from the Maryland Department of Transportation for infrastructure improvements.
Besides the theater, it will also include 45,000 square feet of retail space divided among five restaurants and an 862-space parking garage, which will be operated by the Baltimore County Revenue Authority. A groundbreaking is planned sometime in the first quarter of this year. The garage is expected to open in 2013, and the theater and restaurants should open in fall 2014.
"It's got a very aggressive plan in place for the revitalization and we like being a part of a project that's already on its way, already headed into being something very special," said Jeffries. "For us to just hop in on that was a no-brainer."
The Towson Circle III complex is expected to create 1,530 jobs, according to the county. That includes 660 temporary construction jobs and 870 permanent jobs, generating an annual $16.4 million annual payroll. The county expects the facility to generate $1.75 million in county taxes and $2.9 million in state sales taxes annually.
Developers will soon unveil restaurants slated to join Cinemark, said Mike Batza, Heritage chairman and CEO. Plans include bistro-style dining and high-end restaurants.
Towson Circle III is one of several big projects on the horizon in Towson. Luxury townhomes at Towson Green will start opening late this year. The refurbished Towson City Center (formerly the Investment Building) will open this summer and house offices for Mile One Automotive and Towson University, new studios for WTMD and a farm-to-table restaurant.
Towson has been without a movie theater since 2010, when the owners of Towson Commons ended their lease with AMC Theaters, which since 1992 had operated an eight-screen theater, one that was not without its own share of problems, including rowdy late-night crowds.
Nancy Hafford, executive director of the Towson Chamber of Commerce, called the Cinemark announcement a "jet engine" for downtown development.
"This is just out of the park for all of us," Hafford said. "It doesn't even compare to anything that's happened in the past."
County Councilman David Marks said residents are generally very excited about the project, though some neighborhood concerns remain about traffic and security. Developers will address those at a Feb. 8 meeting in East Towson.
"I think it further adds to the mix of entertainment and restaurants we want in downtown Towson," Marks said. "I think today's announcement has been a long time coming."