New MarketStreet cinema, garage plan unveiled

Mar 7, 2019 by

Published March 6, 2019


LYNNFIELD — After years in the making, the MarketStreet cinema proposal is headed to the April 29 Town Meeting.

National Development Managing Partner Ted Tye unveiled the proposed warrant article during the Board of Selectmen’s Feb. 27 meeting. He said the proposed cinema would consist of eight screens and 800 seats, and would be 40,000 square feet.

Tye said the cinema would be located at the back of the outdoor mall near Gaslight and Walburgers, and would be 45 feet tall.

National Development originally proposed constructing a cinema when the project was first conceived as Meadow Walk in 2007, but the firm decided to abandon the proposal in order to win support from abutters and residents. The Planned Village Development District (PVDD) agreement subsequently prohibited a movie theater from being built at MarketStreet.

Tye noted a warrant article submitted in 2009 sought to allow a cinema, but he said it failed to receive the required two-thirds majority at Town Meeting by 14 votes. National Development also proposed building a theater when the mall was under construction in 2013 and submitted a last-minute warrant article in March 2017 that was withdrawn. The last two pitches were met with resistance from a number of residents.

“We have listened and we have changed,” said Tye. “This is the culmination of the past 13 years. We are excited about doing it. We have had an amazing partnership with the town for the past 13 years. You welcomed us with a 1,592-391 vote at the spring 2007 Town Meeting. It has benefited residents and has been very successful for us as well.”

Tye recalled that the selectmen formed the MarketStreet Advisory Committee (MSAC) in the spring of 2017. He said the MSAC has led to some positive changes.

“We have listened to the input that came out of that committee,” said Tye. “It has been constructive and helpful. The proposal we started talking about in 2017 changed as a result of that process. We have come back with a better proposal.”

WS Development Senior Vice President Lou Masiello said the state of retail has changed since Town Meeting first approved MarketStreet 12 years ago. While people previously flocked to shopping malls 20 years ago, he said online shopping has hit the retail industry hard.

“There is no such thing as a captive audience anymore,” said Masiello. “The consumer is entirely unchained. Consumers have more choices than they know what to do with. The challenge for us is we have got to make people want to be in a place like MarketStreet every single day. There is no moment to rest on laurels and just be happy with the way it is. The property cannot become stale. It has to be dynamic, exciting and invigorating on a daily basis.”

Masiello said the change in the retail landscape is what prompted the two firms to make the zoning change request.

“This is a moment where innovation and investment is critical to the long-term sustainability of this property,” said Masiello.

Tye agreed.

“If we don’t change, we won’t thrive going forward,” said Tye.

Tye said the warrant article will request that voters approve amending the PVDD in order to allow the cinema to be built. He said the PVDD allows 395,000 square feet of retail space and 80,000 square feet of office space to be built, totaling 475,000 square feet. Tye said the warrant article involves reducing the 80,000 square feet of office space to 40,000 square feet. In turn, a 40,000 square foot cinema would be constructed.

“The size of the project will not change,” said Tye.

In the wake of residents expressing frustration with the traffic associated with MarketStreet, Tye pledged to invest between $750,000 and $1 million in traffic improvements. The improvements include constructing a right turn lane onto the Route 95 South ramp off Exit 43.

“The change would involve widening the area, restriping and creating that free unobstructed right turn lane back to Walnut Street,” said Tye. “It was another recommendation of the advisory committee.”

Tye also proposed installing an adaptive signal system, commonly referred to as smart signals, at the Walnut Street intersection. He said the lights would help alleviate traffic congestion in the area. Tye has discussed both proposals with Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) officials, and said they support the traffic improvements.

In order to offset the loss of parking, Tye said a parking garage designed to accommodate at least 300 spaces would be built.

“The traffic and parking benefits would be strong from this project, but we can only achieve them if we build it,” said Tye.

Tye said the cinema and garage would be “fixed by zoning,” meaning they would be prohibited from being relocated. He said the cinema and garage would be located away from residents, and would be “tucked in the back” of the development.

“When we started talking about theaters years ago, everybody had in their mind the Showcase Cinema in Revere or the Showcase Cinema in Woburn,” said Tye. “The big white ugly box. No one wanted that in Lynnfield and quite rightfully so. The building we are designing would be consistent with the MarketStreet design standards and will not be that big, white megaplex. This will be designed very similar to the other buildings in MarketStreet.”

Tye said the cinema’s tenant would be CMX, which he said is “opening a number of high-end theaters around the country.” He said the cinema will be family-friendly.

“It’s a luxury format with food and beverage, big seats and state-of-the-art laser projection,” said Tye. “It will have a small-scale feel. We are trying to create that community theater look and feel to it. In some of our past discussions, there has been this feeling that the theater is a boogeyman. It really isn’t. It’s a nice thing for this project.”

Tye said RKG Associates provided the MSAC with a financial analysis for the cinema proposal. He anticipates it would generate $325,000 in annual property taxes and $190,000 in one-time fees, which would come from building permits. He said the project would increase local sales taxes between $26,000 and $52,000. He also said it would benefit MarketStreet restaurants and shops.

“It’s another reason to get off your couch, put down your laptop and come to MarketStreet,” said Tye.

Traffic concerns raised

After Tye concluded his remarks, two MSAC members weighed-in on the project.

MSAC member Anne Mitchell recalled that the advisory committee “made no recommendation one way or the other on the theater.” She said the MSAC looked at the traffic associated from MarketStreet as well as a number of other areas.

“Traffic is an issue,” said Mitchell. “When the proposal was brought up in 2007 and every time since, that has been one of the biggest areas of concern.”

Mitchell said she and a group of MSAC members took a “field trip” to the Showcase SuperLux at The Street in Chestnut Hill in order to examine that theater.

“The Street has four entrances and five exits on Route 9,” said Mitchell. “It’s much different than what we have here. In terms of the mitigation measures, it’s disappointing to hear that we will only get those measures if a theater gets passed.”

MSAC member Wally McKenzie expressed concerns that the cinema would increase traffic.

“There is only so much space to put those cars through,” said McKenzie.

After the discussion, the selectmen voted 3-0 to submit the cinema warrant article to the Planning Board. The Planning Board will be scheduling a public hearing at a later date.

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