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The council voted unanimously to allow North Carolina-based Frank Theatres to build a CineBowl & Grille.
Courtesy First & Main
CineBowl & Grille, shown here in an artist’s rendering, will feature an IMAX theater, bowling alley and restaurant. The complex will be built by Frank Theatres.
MATT GENTRY | The Roanoke Times
The new theater will be built at the First & Main shopping center in Blacksburg. Some nearby Kennedy Avenue residents expressed concerns about noise and other disturbances.
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
BLACKSBURG — Plans for a combination IMAX theater, restaurant and bowling alley in Blacksburg’s First & Main shopping center got enthusiastic approval from the t own c ouncil on Tuesday.
“You guys have really raised the bar for the amount of personal attention a developer should give the community,” Blacksburg Town Councilwoman Krisha Chachra told representatives of First & Main’s owners and management just before a 7-0 vote on zoning change needed to build the theater.
The vote followed a public hearing where business owners and employees at First & Main described the shopping center’s difficulties with the recession and multiple owners, and the progress made since new owners acquired the center last summer.
But people who live on Kennedy Avenue, the residential street closest to First & Main, also spoke of their disappointment when prior owners failed to shield them from noise, light and other disturbances.
Mayor Ron Rordam said he had voted against the 2006 rezoning that allowed construction of First & Main, and sympathized with residents’ concerns. But Rordam said he was voting for the rezoning change for the theater, because he thought the new owners would work to lessen irritations to neighbors. And the positive business effects should reach outside the shopping center, he said.
“I think it’s promising for the whole South Main area,” Rordam said.
The council’s vote clears the way for North Carolina-based Frank Theatres to build a CineBowl & Grille, which the company also operates in Florida and South Carolina.
Shopping center owner Blacksburg APF Partners requested changes to proffers attached to the original rezoning to lift a height requirement on the planned theater building and to adjust other measures meant to control the center’s effects on its neighbors. The new rezoning allows a 60-foot height for the theater but does not lift the height requirement for any other structures that might be built in the same area of the center.
First & Main representatives have met with Kennedy Avenue residents since last month to try to address concerns, and made changes to a proffer concerning noise and line-of-sight abatement up until the last moment.
What was described at a council work session last week as a $25,000 credit that the owners of 10 adjacent properties could draw on for landscaping or other measures had changed by Tuesday to a promise to put $40,000 toward adding a special noise-abating wrap to the boundary fence — if ongoing meetings with residents don’t bring consensus around a different method.
Attorney Jeff Mitchell, speaking for Blacksburg APF Partners, said the Kennedy Avenue residents “had been ignored and taken advantage of” in the initial rezoning and other earlier stages of the shopping center’s development.
Because their concerns were so serious and long-standing, the plan to block noise and line of sight “changed many times. But I think we ended up with one that’s going to work,” he told council members.
He promised to continue meeting with residents of Kennedy Avenue and nearby streets. “We are committed to continuing to be good neighbors,” Mitchell said.
Of 17 speakers at the public hearing, two urged the council to vote against the rezoning changes.
David Wood of Kennedy Avenue said the shopping center’s owners were trying to weaken noise and traffic controls, not strengthen them, and he urged the council to wait a month to allow more study before voting.
Approving the measure would drive homeowners out and “consign Kennedy Avenue to a future of ill-kept rental units,” he warned.
But speaker after speaker — and council member after council member — praised Mitchell and Nate Kiser of shopping center manager Chrysolite Management Group’s work with residents.
“I’m really impressed with the effort that’s gone into listening to and accommodating where possible” residents’ concerns, Councilman John Bush said.
Most speakers said a new theater, especially one equipped with IMAX capability, would be a draw for the shopping center and for the wider community.
“I’ve seen so much development go toward the town of Christiansburg and I’ve never understood why we couldn’t tap into some of that,” Blacksburg resident Derek Hutchison said. “To say we have an IMAX and Christiansburg don’t, I think we should hang onto that.”
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