Posted 10am Tuesday, Aug. 13
A San Francisco developer has approached Novato with an idea of building a downtown multiplex theater, a project that will draw up to 1,300 more people a day and could give the town an identity many say it now sorely lacks.
The proposed theater would be located at Redwood Boulevard and Grant Avenue and have six to eight screens and seat 1,400 people, creating an anchor to an eventual entertainment district that includes new restaurants, cafes and shops that draw visitors day and night.
“A downtown defines the community, what it is and what it wants to be,” said Chris Stewart, Novato’s economic development director. “We are always thinking about how to bring people downtown on a consistent basis…so this is a concept that the city wants to explore.”
To accommodate additional visitors, a 350-car parking garage would be built nearby.
The project is still in a concept phase, brought to the city by The Prado Group. It has not gone to council for consideration, but many believe it's a good first step toward reviving downtown.
"It’s something we’ve heard from the merchants and it’s needed in our community...an anchor tenant that really draws people to the area," said Councilman Eric Lucan.
An economic impact study of the project recently completed by the Marin Economic Forum found that a multiplex could generate an estimated $673,000 a year in local and state tax revenues and create 58 jobs. It would also create several dozen temporary jobs in associated trades like welding and plumbing.
Of course, the Novato Theater would be nearby, if and when enough funds to complete the restoration are raised. But, according to the study, the two projects can exist side by side as long as there is a “strategic arrangement” between them to offer different programming.
Novato Theater organizers have said they want to hold screenings of older films and host musical recitals and local theater. The multiplex theater, meanwhile, will show large-scale, worldwide-distributed motion pictures.
Opinions on the project abound.
On Novato Patch's Facebook page, readers chimed in on the potential development.
"Waste of money!" wrote Chris Motsinger. "I say restore the theatre downtown..... theres already a theatre out in vintage oaks."
"Whenever I go to movies at Rowland they are empty," said Novato resident Silvana Candia. "How would our small town support two multiplexes?"
CORRECTION: A previous version of the story incorrectly stated how many people are expected to attend the cineplex each day. The attendance is estimated between 1,100 and 1,300 people a day.
SOUND OFF: What do you think about a multiplex in downtown Novato? Would this attract new restaurants and retail and help give the town an identity?