FALMOUTH — The 10-screen Regal Cinemas may soon become a Walmart grocery store if the retail giant’s plans to expand are realized.
“They’ve been seeing viewership decline. It’s been a nearly 50 percent drop off in five years,” property owner Ben Devine said of the cinemas.
Devine, who was instrumental in bringing Walmart to the Route 1 plaza, said Regal Cinemas has signed an agreement stating that they will be vacating the space, but has not solidified a date it will close down operations.
He said in addition to declining revenues, a proposed cinema in Freeport that would increase competition for viewers contributed to the company’s decision to move out of the space.
Devine also said Walmart is very interested in tearing down the existing building and rebuilding in the footprint.
The cinema building is 22,500 square feet. If Walmart were to expand there, it would go from 84,000 square feet to at least 106,500 square feet.
Meanwhile, a plan to limit all development in town to 75,000 square feet footprint per business, with a maximum of 120,000 for a multi-business building, is making its way to the Town Council.
The Community Development Committee, a three-person subcommittee of the Council, is expected to present a proposal to the full council on Dec. 13, which could then be drafted into an zoning ordinance amendment to limit large business developments.
If the CDC’s proposed amendment had support from the council, it would then have to through Planning Board administrative review, public hearings and be approved by a vote of the council for it to take effect.
“A lot of people, residents, say they don’t want big box stores in our town,” said CDC Chairwoman Bonny Rodden. “We want to give the council and the town an opportunity to make a statement about what they want.”
Community Development Director Amanda Stearns said she was conferring with the town attorney to determine whether a plan that has gone before the planning board for substantial review could still be limited by an ordinance amendment passed after the fact.
A Walmart expansion has not yet gone before the planning board, nor is it on a future agenda. However, Devine said he hopes the plan can move forward quickly.
“This town has seen a fair amount of retail vacancy,” Devine said. “I think the last thing Falmouth is going to want to see is more vacancy.”
Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or firstname.lastname@example.org