Ryan Stanton, rstanton@ExplorerNews.com

Nov. 2, 2005 - Greg Wexler, the developer who helped bring projects such as Continental Ranch, Arizona Pavilions and the proposed Town Center to Marana, is at it again.

His latest attraction: An 18-screen mega-plex movie theater in Marana.

Slated to open by December 2006, "The Arizona Pavilions" will join several businesses in the 33-acre Arizona Pavilions West power center being developed along Cortaro Road, directly across from the existing commercial center anchored by Wal-Mart.

The theater will feature stadium seating, digital and THX sound, wall-to-wall screens, a gourmet coffee shop, pastry bar, and video arcade, said Kent Edwards, managing partner for Linda Vista Cinemas, which is developing the theater in conjunction with developer Larsen Baker.

Wexler, of Continental Ranch Development, spearheaded the project by providing the prime 8.3-acre parcel, located on the site of his current business office. That means he'll have to move, but Wexler said he's open to the idea if it means bringing entertainment to the Northwest.

"We're very excited about it," he said. "As far as the outside, he's going to really dress it up. It'll fit in with our environment and he's going to go up on our 55-foot sign. It'll be a nice complement with our restaurants and shopping and we look forward to getting it open."

The Arizona Pavilions West power center is just now getting underway and will be built by 2007, with seven new restaurants and seven new major retail centers located at the southwest corner of Cortaro Road and Arizona Pavilions Drive.

Wexler was responsible for developing the 41-acre Arizona Pavilions power center at Cortaro Road and Interstate 10 where stores include Kohl's, Payless Shoes, Blockbuster, Sleep America, DM Federal Credit Union and Bank of America. Restaurants include Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Taco Bell and Starbucks.

The western power center will include businesses such as Panda Express, Chili's, Batteries Plus, Wienerschnitzel, Golden Corral and In-N-Out Burger. Retail shops such as Pier 1, PetCo, Hallmark, Famous Footwear, Ross and Bed Bath & Beyond also are in the works.

"We are under construction to get the pads going and somewhere around the end of this year these will all start under construction," Wexler said. "We've had a lot of calls on the In-N-Out Burger. We'll break ground on that in March and be open the first week in July."

Edwards said the 3,300-seat luxury cinema complex will include automated ticketing kiosks, a hot foods snack bar, a live performance venue and space for private events. Located about five and a half miles away from the theater at the Foothills Mall, Edwards said the theater will be supported by Marana's growing population west of I-10.

"I've been watching the area for about four or five years, waiting for the area to grow a little bit," he said. "When I met Greg, Wal-Mart was still in the planning stages. The interest really went up dramatically when we started hearing about the homes and the projects that are going to be coming to the area."

The theater will be the first in Southern Arizona to offer a digital image projection system, Edwards said, which means saying "goodbye" to those old film reels. The theater will be able to download digital film via the Internet, he said.

"Digital projectors are the future of the industry. It's what's coming," he said. "It's already in a lot of big cities. Harkins has one up in Phoenix. There are quite a few in California and some of the larger cities, but we'll be the first to have it in Southern Arizona and we'll have it on at least two screens to open the doors. It's a cleaner picture that never fades, never scratches and isn't subject to weather changes."

Edwards, a Tucson resident, said he hopes the theater in Marana is just the first of many in a chain of theaters he hopes to develop. Linda Vista Cinemas is owned by Dan and Linda Cutler of Cutler Fire Protection, making the theater the first locally owned first-run movie theater in Tucson since the 1970s, he said.

Seaver-Franks Architects is designing the complex, which the WLB Group will engineer.

Plans for the theater have been reviewed only casually by the town, though Edwards has a pre-application meeting this week.

Edwards, a 1986 graduate of the University of Arizona, went into the theater business in 1988. With his theater in Marana, he said he hopes to set aside one screen room as a live-performance venue that will allow local schools to host plays.

Edwards volunteered as a football coach at Marana High School last year and said his former athletes are already asking about the 85 jobs the theater will bring to Marana.

Wexler promises his second installment of the Arizona Pavilions power center to be more exciting and more pedestrian friendly than the last.

"I want to put in a couple water features I've seen in California and Scottsdale that interact with the people - not just a little fountain, but where they actually pop up and the kids can run through it and stuff," he said. "And if you want to go shopping and kill a little time before a movie, there's going to be a lot of pedestrian connectivity so you can do that."

Wexler said several factors slowed up construction of the In-N-Out Burger at the corner of the of the new development. The town was concerned that the drive-thru would have so much business that it would congest the area, he said.

Wexler built curbed medians in the streets at the corner of Cortaro Road and Arizona Pavilions Drive last month and redrew the In-N-Out Burger site plan, which now features a long, winding drive-thru that he said holds close to 20 cars.

"The funny thing about it is that everybody who opens up here is way over their projections, which is unusual," Wexler said, commenting on the healthy market in Arizona Pavilions. "Everybody's doing well out here."

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