Proposed Freeport movie theater moves to public arena

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FREEPORT — After about a year’s hiatus, the likelihood of a movie theater downtown is back on the table. 

Berenson Associates, developers of Freeport Village Station, will hold a public informational meeting on development of the multi-plex theater and the financing needed to complete the project within the next two weeks.

Coucilors and Al Yebba, chief operating officer of Berenson Associates, met in an executive session on Tuesday, July 6, to discuss the theater proposal.

Town Planner Donna Larson said the project would put a six-screen theater in the Freeport Village Station parking garage. Thirty-four shopping center parking spaces would be removed to make space for the theater.

The theater project faced opposition in 2009 when the planning process was questioned by Councilors Joe Migliaccio and Eric Pandora. Parking waivers were recommended in a narrowly worded Planning Board amendment that would affect only “indoor and outdoor arts centers that are part of a parking garage.” The two councilors said they were unaware of an application for a cinema and thought the process should be more transparent. 

Now, the developer and the council are working together to solidify the theater project, and the public process will begin in the coming weeks.

Larson said an amendment to the current Destination Freeport and Desert Road Tax Increment Districts would be needed to help fund the newly named Garage TIF.

The proposal includes using new tax revenue to reimburse Berenson for a portion of the parking garage reconstruction. The  proposal would increase the return to Berenson Associates from the $17.5 million agreed upon in 2006 to no more than $18 million. The additional $550,000 would be used to reimburse the developer for theater construction.

Larson said the public informational session will be an opportunity for representatives of Berenson Associates to explain the proposal, how it will be managed and owned, and will finally identify the independent company that will operate the theater.

“Berenson has experience in these small, local theater projects,” Larson said. “It will be a multi-screen theater, but local.”

The movie theater is expected to attract more people to Freeport, ensuring the long-term viability of the village and increased revenue.

In addition to the public informational session, the council will hold a formal public hearing on Aug. 10 at 6:30 p.m. to discuss the proposed amendments to the Berenson TIF and the Destination Freeport TIF.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or [email protected]