Downtown movie theater proposed for the Heartside District

Grab the popcorn and the Mike & Ikes. Many residents of Grand Rapids have long been clamoring for a downtown movie theater as one of many "must haves," and it appears as though that may become a reality in the coming years. J.D. Loeks, President of Loeks Theatres, Inc and Celebration Cinemas presented conceptual designs of a new 60,000 square foot movie theater and retail complex to the Downtown Development Authority this week, capping off weeks of rumors that a new entertainment complex might be coming to the Heartside area.

The city-owned parking lot where the development is proposed, known as Area 5, is located south of the Van Andel Arena near Ionia Ave. and Oakes Street. The lot was listed by the DDA in February of 2012 to solicit potential development proposals. Jackson Entertainment LLC, representing Loeks, presented an offer on the property, and was seeking approval of the option before the board (which was approved) at this week's meeting. 

In addition to showing first-run movies on eight or nine screens using advanced audio/visual technology, Loeks is hoping that the theater will provide multi-use functionality for the growing convention and life sciences industries in downtown Grand Rapids. This sentiment was echoed by Doug Small of Experience GR at the DDA meeting. Their goal is to attract over 400,000 visitors to the theater each year.

Dating back to 1944, the Loeks family has had a movie theater presence in Grand Rapids, beginning with the purchase of the Midtown Cinema at the corner of Pearl St. and Ionia Avenue. Though the downtown area has not had a working stand-alone movie theater in over 50 years, Loeks Theatres operates four movie theaters in the Grand Rapids area, as well as numerous other locations around the State.

No specific timeline was given by Loeks for when the project would start, but optimistically,  construction would begin within a year.

A similar movie theater, retail and nine-story condo complex was proposed in 2006 for the same parcel by a Farmington Hills based developer, but never materialized. The Heartside Historic District surrounding Area 5 has seen over $500 Million in new and redevelopment projects in the last 15 years, much of which was initiated after the building of the Van Andel Arena in 1996.

Source: Anne Marie Bessette, Downtown Development Authority
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