Mayor Don Wesely announced today that the long-awaited downtown entertainment center project is ready to proceed. Douglas Theatre Company President David Livingston joined Mayor Wesely to announce that his company plans to submit a proposal to the City for a 14-screen entertainment center. If the proposal is accepted and the City Council approves, construction could begin this summer.
“This is a very exciting announcement,” Mayor Wesely said. “The project will bring new energy to downtown Lincoln. I applaud Douglas Theatre Company’s willingness to invest in downtown Lincoln.”
The proposed entertainment center will occupy most of the block bounded by 11th, 12th, “O” and “P” streets. Douglas, which owns and operates the Lincoln Theatre at 12th and “P” streets, recently secured the remainder of the north half of the block from Wells Fargo Bank. The City plans to acquire the south half of the block, except for one building at the southwest corner and two buildings at the southeast corner. The buildings that will remain house the Continental Commons, Dish and Rouges Gallery; Marz Martini Bar; and Sartor Hamann Jewelers. Ultimately, ownership of the site would transfer to the developer.
“Douglas Theatre Company will propose a flagship state-of-the-art entertainment center to rival any being built,” Livingston said. “Increasingly, theatre-based entertainment centers are playing anchor roles in communities that encourage vibrant, healthy downtowns. Lincoln is that kind of community, and we are excited about the success we expect for this project.”
The City formally will advertise a request for proposals from developers for the block during the next two weeks. Center Associates, the real estate affiliate of Douglas Theatre Company will submit the company’s proposal. Any potential developer has the same opportunity to submit a proposal.
“Because of the public sector’s involvement, the process by which this redevelopment project is achieved must be open, accountable and competitive,” the Mayor said. “I am very pleased that Douglas Theatre Company will be among those submitting a proposal.” Livingston said he understands that anyone may submit a proposal, but that he has confidence in the project his company envisions.
“Douglas has been doing business in downtown Lincoln since 1952,” said Russell Brehm, Douglas founder and chairman. “We know the site, the market, and our customers. The time is right, and we plan to reward the community that has patronized our theatres for the past 50 years with a first-rate entertainment center everyone will be pleased and proud to enjoy for many years to come.”
Redevelopment strategies dating back to the mid 1990s have identified the need for a modern entertainment center to replace the downtown’s aging movie theatres. This site, because of its key location and access to available parking, always has been the preferred location.
Several interested developers have entered into negotiations with property owners and City staff, but withdrew for various reasons. The most serious negotiations, with California developer Bryan Hall, ended after the September 11,2001 terrorist attacks and national economic downturn.
In recent months, the Lincoln economy has begun recovering, setting new records for construction permits. Nationally, the movie theatre industry has emerged from its own troubles. Strong movie products, combined with the latest in theatre amenities, have helped boost consumer demand for on-screen entertainment to another all-time high. In 2002, total admissions reached 1.59 billion, beating the previous record set in 2001 of 1.49 billion.
“This project is something we have wanted for a long time,” Wesely said. “Now, we have a serious local developer ready to submit a proposal.”
Responses to the City’s request for proposals to redevelop the site are due February 25. The Mayor will appoint a committee to review any responses received and recommend a selection. A redevelopment agreement between the City and developer will be submitted for City Council action in March. Site demolition is expected to begin in the spring, with a grand opening celebration in mid-2004.
The City of Lincoln expects to invest about $3.2 million in the $15 million project. The City’s contribution is generated by the project area itself from district-wide tax-increment financing and land sale proceeds tied to this project. City funds will be used mostly to assemble and demolish the site. The City also will pay for design and construction of public improvements on the site, including street and sidewalk work, landscaping and utilities.
The City’s financial support for this project is modeled on the public participation in many past downtown redevelopments, including the Embassy Suites, the Old Federal Building restoration and numerous Haymarket improvements.Fact Sheet