Approvals Sought for Hilton Head Theater


Mall owner offers land, cash incentives in Shelter Cove plan


March 21, 2008

The company that owns of The Mall at Shelter Cove has issued a set of concessions to try to win approval for building a 12-screen theater, a project it says is needed to save the shopping center.

Whether the proposal will be enough to sway a majority of the Hilton Head Island Town Council, however, is uncertain.

In a letter dated March 18, the company that owns the mall offered to give 2.7 acres of undeveloped land across from the mall on Shelter Cove Lane to the town. The land would be used for a parking lot for the town’s Shelter Cove park, but the mall would also be allowed to use the area for parking if needed.

The mall also offered the town roughly 1,500 square feet of space inside the mall to be used as a community area for five years at $10 per year.

Walt Petrie, chairman of mall owner Petrie Ross Ventures, said his company also would donate $15,000 for the maintenance of the asphalt bike path along Shelter Cove Lane, among other offers.

The project is scheduled to be heard April 1 by the Town Council.

“I hope to get a decision,” Petrie said of his goals for that meeting. “We need to know what the pleasure of the council is.”

Petrie isn’t confident his $10 million mall improvement project will be approved by the council. The mall wants to add more square footage than is allowed under its current zoning.

Councilman John Safay has expressed concerns about the project at previous committee meetings. The mall letter does nothing to change his two major concerns: that the town has focused on reducing growth while the mall is asking for additional growth and that allowing the mall extra space gives it an advantage over competing theaters.

“Is it right to present a special consideration to one organization to create a business that would go directly into competition with other businesses?” Safay asked.

The owners of the other two multi-screen theaters — the 10-screen Northridge Cinema 10 and the five-screen Park Plaza Cinemas — spoke out against the proposed mall theater last week, saying it would inevitably put them out of business.

Mayor Tom Peeples, who has expressed support for the theater project, said working out the details of the mall’s proposal doesn’t need to be negotiated publicly. He declined to comment on the owner’s letter.

Peeples said he “still believe(s) in finding a way to make this work, “but that it looks like “an uphill battle” to get a majority of the Town Council on board.

The letter was a response to a meeting with town staff last month where suggestions were offered on how to make the theater plan more acceptable to the Town Council.

The mid-island mall, which has 274,000 square feet of retail space, is seeking a zoning change to add an additional 43,215 square feet for the theater.

Petrie has said the mall faces a dire future if the theater isn’t approved, but has never specifically said what that future would be. Adding the theater would help attract restaurants and other new tenants to revitalize the mall, according to mall officials.

The Concessions
In a letter to Mayor Tom Peeples, the owner of The Mall at Shelter Cove offered some concessions to make a proposed 12-screen theater more palatable to the town. The mall’s plan will go before Town Council on April 1. The owner offers, among other things, to:

• Contribute $15,000 to the town for maintenance and improvements on the asphalt pathway along Shelter Cove Lane.

• Grant the town an easement for a future pathway along William Hilton Parkway.

• Eliminate all exposed neon and other lighting in the center courtyard area of the mall currently visible from outside the building.

• Donate 2.7 acres of undeveloped land across Shelter Cove Lane from the mall for a parking lot for the Shelter Cove park, at the mall’s expense.

• Provide a painted pedestrian crossing on Shelter Cove Lane to the new parking area for use by mall patrons and park visitors.

• Provide a roughly 1,500-square-foot store space within the mall to the town for use as a community area at $10 per year for five years.
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