Thursday, July 17, 2008

Downtown Orlando Movie Theater May Not Be Dead

Plans for a movie theater in the heart of downtown Orlando, which seemed as dead as the local condo market in recent weeks, have new life once again.

The real-estate company that owns the retail space in the Plaza tower complex on Orange Avenue said Monday it has bought the parking garage from the bank that foreclosed on it last year and is now committed to completing the 12-screen multiplex on the second level of the Orange Avenue building.

The Plaza was local developer Cameron Kuhn's downtown centerpiece and the largest redevelopment project in city history, but it got caught in the real-estate downdraft earlier this year. Now Kuhn is out of the project, and California-based RP Realty Partners is the ongoing developer of both the retail and the movie-theater space.

Stuart Rubin, RP Realty's president and chief executive officer, said Monday he hopes to work out an agreement with the city of Orlando to complete the multiplex using both the original incentive package of $3.5 million and a $2.5 million city loan to be repaid from theater profits.If a deal can be worked out, he said, the theater could be open in time for this year's winter-holiday season.

Orlando Economic Development Director Frank Billingsley was not available Monday to comment on the company's proposal. City Hall spokeswoman Heather Allebaugh said it was "premature to comment on the feasibility" of the latest plan, but noted that the city has said all along it wants to see the project finished. "City staff looks forward to reviewing a formal proposal," she said.

Rubin said his privately held company, which is also a major owner of retail space in Baldwin Park in northeast Orlando, is in leasing discussions with a new theater operator. AMC Theatres canceled its operating contract earlier this year when it became clear the long-delayed theater was not going to be completed any time soon.

Kuhn, facing a number of lawsuits and financial hurdles brought on in part by the global credit squeeze and real-estate slump, was recently forced to auction off most of the remaining office space in his two Plaza office towers and turn control of the buildings over to their tenants.

Rubin said in a written statement that Kuhn "did not understand the challenges of building a theater." He said that's one reason Beverly Hills, Calif.-based RP Realty needs to restructure the city's tax-incentive package to complete the job."

We believe we will be able to demonstrate that one final investment in the Plaza will provide the push needed to ensure that the Plaza will be the landmark once envisioned by the city," Rubin said. Courtesy Orlando Sentinel 7/10/08.