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Developer proposes 10-movie theater for Yorkville

Updated: October 29, 2012 6:36AM



YORKVILLE — A new, 10-screen movie theater could stand on almost the same ground where the old Countryside Theater used to be.

Neighborhood Cinema Group, or NCG, is planning to build a 37,500-square-foot theater with seating for 1,900, beginning in January, and have it completed by mid-November 2013.

The new theater would have 100 percent digital sound and video quality and 3D capability for every screen.

It would take up about seven acres of the 18-acre former Countryside Shopping Center property at Routes 47 and 34 that has been vacant since the center was torn down in 2005.

That center operated for 33 years and was, in many ways, the heart of the community.

Officials brought the preliminary plan to the City Council this week. The plan includes more than $2 million in incentives.

Local developer Jim Ratos is in the midst of buying the property from Bank of America. The project hits near home for Ratos, who lives in the adjoining Countryside subdivision.

“We’re going to do good things,” Ratos said. “It’s been an eyesore for a long time. Being a 35-year resident of that subdivision, I would drive by it every day, and it kind of burned my saddle.”

It burned a lot of residents’ saddles when former developers tore down the old buildings at Countryside. Those developers entered into an agreement with the city that included a tax increment financing district on the property. There was another TIF district put on the property in 2008.

The city sold bonds to front fund the tear down, but then the developer went bankrupt and into foreclosure, and the city was stuck with the bond payments.

Yorkville currently is paying about $300,000 a year on those bonds. Because nothing has been happening with the land, the TIF is receiving less than $10,000 a year from investments and taxes.

City officials have been seeking a developer for the property since 2008, but have had problems because of restrictions denoting what can be put on the property and how it should be developed. Earlier this year, city officials decided to relax those restrictions, and several developers, including Ratos, began showing interest.

Under the agreement on the table right now, the city would agree to pay $2 million from the TIF fund to the developer on the day the movie theater opens.

If the TIF does not have the full $2 million, it will pay what’s there and make up for it by rebating the city’s portion of the amusement tax until it reaches $2 million. When that is reached, the city and the developer will split the 3 percent amusement tax on the theater.

The city also will allow the developer access to the 1 percent business district tax on the property, which is for infrastructure and other costs within the district.

While the incentives are substantial, aldermen this week said they were fine with them.

“I don’t think they’re asking for anything unreasonable,” said Alderman Rose Spears, 4th Ward.

Alderman Larry Kot, 2nd Ward, said he is “very pleased” with the proposed development.

“It’s been a long time coming,” he said.

NCG is a family-owned group of movie theaters based in Owosso, Mich., since 1985. It has 14 theaters with 135 screens in several states. They would hire about 50 people for the Yorkville theater.

“They prefer to operate in small communities,” said Jim Pesola, a Yorkville marketing person working for NCG. “They have a hometown feel.”



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