Cinema plans moving forward

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The developers of Wildhorse Stadium Cinema have submitted applications for all needed development permits in an effort to streamline the city approval process for the project.

To establish the "public benefit," he needs to win city approval, developer Whitney Ward of Resort Ventures also increased the cash contribution he has offered toward building an extension of the Yampa River Core Trail at the U.S. Highway 40 underpass on Mount Werner Road.

The 13,572-square-foot cinema would be built in the Wildhorse Marketplace shopping center. The theater, which would include six screens, was not part of the original city approval for the shopping center. The two largest screening rooms would offer auditorium seating.

Gart Sports, the center's largest tenant, is the only business open at Wildhorse Marketplace. A Ben and Jerry's ice cream shop and a Quizno's sandwich shop are expected to open by early summer. A coffee shop is also among the tenants. The project includes an office building and space for at least two restaurants.

Ward has signed a letter of intent with a prospective tenant -- Rocky Mountain Resort Cinemas, which operates movie theaters in ski towns such as Sun Valley, Idaho; Park City, Utah; Whistler, B.C.; and Aspen.

Tim McHarg, assistant director of planning services, said the city code creates a separate category for movie theaters, and Ward's plans require a new development permit.

When City Council adopted the current development code about four years ago, it deliberately decided to leave movie theaters as a conditional use rather than include them as rights by use within certain commercial zone districts, McHarg said. That decision reflects an awareness of the building mass and blank walls that are sometimes typical of theaters, he said.

Ward's tentative elevation drawings show the use of a large number of windows in the theater lobby and a series of three small murals to add interest to the building's solid walls. The murals would depict historic films. Exterior building materials include stucco, culture stone and corrugated steel.

Approval of the conditional use for the cinema requires Ward to provide some additional "public benefit" in exchange for approval of his development permit.

He previously promised $23,248 to help build the trail extension from Rotary Park to his shopping center. With the submittal of the cinema development plans, Ward is proposing to contribute an additional $10,200 to the trail construction.

No public hearings have been scheduled for review of the development plans.

-- To reach Tom Ross call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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