The Benchmark Group has been selected to revitalize the Market Arcade Cinema complex. The development firm is expected to reopen the eight-screen complex after much needed upgrades. Benchmark beat out competing proposals by Rocco Termini and Sinatra & Co. Realty.
The Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency (BURA) received letters of interest from the three potential buyers for the cinema complex earlier this year. Benchmark’s selection was made at a BURA meeting this morning.
Benchmark is planning a $9 million renovation of the complex and will be bringing in AMC Theaters to run it. The eight screens will be updated to digital format for first run movies, “luxury seating,” and more. The project also calls additional improvements, including updates to theater amenities, office space and theater facades. They expect to draw 200,000 moviegoers annually to the downtown facility.
“We are proud to be named the designated developer of the Market Arcade Cinema Complex,” said Steven J. Longo, Chief Operating Officer of The Benchmark Group. “This project will further enhance the current development on downtown Main Street and in the process create a destination attraction to draw hundreds of thousands of people to Buffalo.”
Termini proposed keeping several cinemas but adding ten bowling lanes and significantly expanding the restaurant space in the building. Sinatra was seeking to reconfigure the complex to create three large theaters plus space for live performances. Bijou Grille would have expanded under Sinatra’s proposal.
General Cinema Theaters operated the heavily-subsidized eight-screen complex when it opened in 1987. After a strong opening, and attendance dwindling, General Cinema did not renew its lease and pulled out in 1998.
Angelika Film Center operated the facility for a short time and Dipson Theatres was brought on in 2000. Today, the complex is in need of significant capital upgrades such as new digital projectors.
The Market Arcade Cinema Complex consists of three buildings on Main and Washington streets. The cinemas at 639 Main Street include eight auditoriums with 1,842 seats in 33,000 sq.ft. of space. The not-for-profit Market Arcade Film & Arts Centre had a month-to-month lease on the complex and had a management agreement with Dipson Theaters until the complex closed in June.
Also included in the sale is the two-story building housing Bijou Grill at 643 Main Street and a commercial building at 628 Washington Street anchored by Via Evaluation Inc.
The pending sale means Road Less Traveled Productions (RLTP) will need to find a new location.
RLTP Executive & Artistic Director Scott Behrend said, “We are disappointed with the City of Buffalo’s decision because it means RLTP is forced to find a new home. While the bid accepted by the City is great news for Buffalo, RLTP is an established, professionally run, non-profit theatre successfully operating in downtown Buffalo’s Theater District. We’re thankful that the City has committed to allow RLTP to continue its operations in the Market Arcade Film & Arts Centre through the completion of our 2014-2015 season. The City has also offered to assist us with our transition to a new location.”
RLTP Board of Directors Chairman Ellen Hassett Cahill said, “Our 2014-2015 season opens tomorrow. Come see us. We are confident in the value of our mission, the quality of our operations, and in our ability to successfully carry on in a new home.”
Amherst-based Benchmark is no stranger to downtown. The company redeveloped the former Hengerer’s/Sibley’s Department Store on Main near Mohawk into the Lafayette Court office building. It still owns the former National Gypsum building at 325 Delaware Avenue and has started work on a mixed-use infill project at 766 Elmwood Avenue.
The Benchmark Group plans to start renovations to non-theater space by spring 2015. It is anticipated that AMC would begin upgrades to the theater in January 2016.
Get Connected: The Benchmark Group, 716.833.4986