AMC signs lease to bring movies back to downtown Evanston, developer says

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AMC Theatres, the nation’s largest movie theater chain, has signed a long-term lease to bring the movie theater back to downtown Evanston, the property’s developer said Feb. 10.

Mitch Goltz, co-owner of GW Properties, the developer, said AMC has indicated it will reopen all 12 screens formerly operated by Cinemark as Century Theaters as early as this spring.

He called AMC’s signing a “significant step” in efforts to reactivate the 200,000 square foot Church Street Plaza, which GW purchased last November.

“AMC is the biggest name in the business and offers the most amenities,” he said.

Trampoline park, play arena and more

Goltz said his company has also reached an agreement with another company, Sky Zone, to operate one of its flagship trampoline and active amusement parks in what was once the south side of the theater, where Century had six other screens to show independent or artistic films. themed movies.

This part of the theater space will be combined with the second floor of the former Urban Outfitters space.

Sky Zone, whose nearest center is in Vernon Hills at another GW Properties development, is a “best-in-class operator, which will bring a whole new kind of leisure and entertainment to a younger population in Evanston” , Goltz said.

Still with young users in mind, GW Properties has signed an agreement with Belong Gaming, a London-based company that operates online gaming arenas, Goltz said. “This [e-gaming] is one of the strongest clubs in Northwestern,” he said. Belong Gaming would occupy the former Buffalo Wild Wings site at 1714 Maple Ave.

Goltz said the popularity of online video games among Northwestern University students was one factor in the continued activity. Belong Gaming “should be a great draw for people to come to the site who wouldn’t otherwise,” he said.

Other moves underway, Goltz said, include relocating CycleBar to the space across Church Street next to Noodles & Company at 940 Church St., and bringing in Big Wig Tacos, a fast casual taco concept, to be part of the old American Apparel space. at 950 Church Street.

Resilience and great real estate

Overall, regarding the development, Goltz said, “We’ve been very encouraged so far and, while we’re not surprised, we’re very pleased with the amount of activity we’ve had here.

“The site had kind of fallen into a bad occupancy state, and that was partly because of COVID, partly because of the changing needs of tenants in the market,” he said. .

“But you know, if there’s anything this project can show, it’s resilience; and quality real estate will continue to bring excellent tenants and opportunities. We seek to be the steward of making the most of this project and making it something that Evanston and its constituents can be proud of for many years to come.

Quite a turnaround

Some had counted the movies returning after Century 12/Cinemark shut down shortly after the pandemic hit in 2020, ending more than 20 years of operation on the site.

Paul Zalmezak, the city’s economic development manager, was among those predicting the city would land another operator for the space.

Goltz struck a confident tone last fall, announcing his company’s plans for Church Street Plaza, including relaunching the theater.

“Obviously COVID has taken a toll on everyone, in every market, but pre-COVID this was one of the best theaters in the entire state of Illinois,” he said. February 10.

“People want to go back to the theater – people have already gone back to the theater,” he said, reiterating that AMC “is the biggest name in the business and has the most amenities and offerings.

“So they saw this as a great opportunity to gain market share in what was a very good site and a very dynamic market in Chicago.”

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