Thursday, September 13, 2012

Land purchase for theater expected to finalized soon

The developers of a highly anticipated entertainment complex with 12-screen movie theater in downtown Fountain Hills expect to finalize the land purchase and first loan by Aug. 22.

Residents should see work on the site begin in September with construction starting in November, said Dave Fackler of Nielsen-Fackler Planning and Development. He and George Kasnoff of GMK Building and Development are heading the project.

The Avenue will be built on a 6.5-acre site at the southwestern corner of the Avenue of the Fountains and Verde River Drive, near the Fountain Hills Community Center and Centennial Circle. The project totals more than 155,200 square feet and includes the theater and new retail, restaurant and office space.

The first phase includes the theater and two additional buildings. The second phase includes two more buildings along the Avenue of the Fountains.

An unidentified trust has approved a $20 million loan to complete the first phase and has provided a letter of commitment on a $9 million loan to complete the second, Fackler said. The trust prefers not to be identified until after the first loan is finalized, he said.

The theater should open late next summer with an official opening just before Thanksgiving, he said. The entire complex should be completed by either the end of 2013 or in early 2014 at the latest, he said.

"The theater (first phase) takes about 10 months of hard construction, while the other two buildings (in the second phase) will take about eight months, and we'll be building those pretty much at the same time. So we really should be able to complete everything by the end of next year," Fackler said.

In April, the Town Council approved an amendment to its development agreement between the town and Avenue of the Fountain LLC extending the time line for the development process. The developers were unable to meet the original deadline for acquiring the property.

"The schedule has slipped a little, held up by vacation schedules, compliance with the Patriot Act on the financing end (and) a change in attorney on the finance side," Fackler said.

The Patriot Act includes provisions to prevent, detect and prosecute international money laundering and the financing of terrorism. Any time large sums of money are moved from one account to another, "even if the funds are domestic," the act requires "a whole bunch of paperwork" for compliance, Fackler said.

"For us, it was all domestic money, but in this process, the trust that we are borrowing the money from has changed banks two or three times, and each time had to go through the process again," he said. "Now it's just a matter of moving bonds and funds from one account to another, and putting it all into a loan account so they can start to distribute."

Town Manager Ken Buchanan said the town has received assurances that the project is proceeding according to the development agreement. The schedule requires that the complex be completed by February 2016 at the latest.

"There are a number of benchmarks that were spelled out in the development agreement that were negotiated between the developers and the town, and some of those benchmarks are coming up this year and scheduled for the first of next year," he said.

In 2007, the land was rezoned to encourage mixed-use development. The next year, the council entered a development agreement for the Fountain Hills Town Square, which called for 490,000 square feet of theater, retail, restaurant, office and residential on 15 acres. But financing fell through with the onset of the recession.

by Edward Gately - Aug. 7, 2012 The Republic |

Land purchase for theater expected to finalized soon

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