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Movie theater pitched for old Ravenna High School

By Diane Smith | Staff Writer Published: October 6, 2013 4:00 AM
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Two developers have proposed an institution of higher learning at the old Ravenna High School property at the corner of Clinton and East Main streets.

A third developer hopes to bring Ravenna its first movie theater since 1967.

David Vaughan, executive director of Neighborhood Development Services, put a rendering of the proposed development in the agency's newsletter. The rendering shows the movie theater and a BW3 restaurant. Vaughan said he's had "positive discussions" with the chain.

Jack Kohl, chairman of the Portage County Port Authority's board of directors, said the board reviewed the three proposals and interviewed the developers. A decision is expected in the next several weeks, he said.

The port authority is the development arm of Portage County, which agreed to develop the site if the Ravenna School District would clear the land. The building was demolished earlier this year.

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Vaughan said NDS purchased a movie theater in downtown Barberton and saw the impact the theater had on that city's downtown. NDS hired a firm to manage the independent theater. Eric Hummel is the potential contractor, and Ted Manfrass is the architect.

Ravenna's theater would be independent, contracting directly with the movie studios, and would be 20,000 square feet, with eight screens. Kent, Garrettsville and Aurora are the only communities in Portage County with year-round, indoor movie theaters.

Ravenna has not had a movie theater since the Ravenna Theatre, located on South Chestnut Street, closed in 1967.

Vaughan said the theater would draw people from the surrounding communities, and draw thousands of people.

"That will have a significant impact on downtown Ravenna," he said.

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If the Port Authority approves the NDS plan, Vaughan said he hopes the BW3 restaurant would be open in late 2014 to take advantage of the football season, since that is the busiest time for the sports bar. The movie theater, he said, would open in spring of 2015.

The $7.2 million project would bring 25 full and part-time jobs, plus jobs associated with the eatery.

The Port Authority had hired a marketing firm to study the property. Kohl acknowledged that the marketing study seemed to favor "educationally based institutions" like the two making proposals for the five-acre site. But it also favored chain restaurants, such as the one proposed by NDS.

"It's an exciting time," he said. "I'm genuinely excited that these three proposals would come to us."

He said the educational uses would involve two-year institutions with multiple programs. Each would involve some sort of retail component. He would not state the names of the developers or if they involve relocating one of the county's existing schools there.

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BHostetler Oct 6, 2013 9:50 PM

I think a movie theater would be a wonderful addition to downtown Ravenna. My husband and I often find ourselves heading to a neighboring town for a movie and dinner for our weekly date nights. This project would keep our local restaurants busy and provide 25 full and part time jobs. I see no downside to this idea. I look forward to hearing which proposal will be chosen.

shostet1 Oct 6, 2013 9:42 PM

I vote for the movie theater and restaurant. My family and I either go to Alliance or Kent to see a movie which in turn we end up going out to eat also in the same area.  It would be great to just stay in our home town of Ravenna and give them the revenue.

rumblefishme2 Oct 6, 2013 9:04 PM

I would really like to see the movie theatre and restaurant going in.  I've done my college thing and there's Fortis and Kent State are in the area already for the kids to go to. So I would vote for the theatre.  Maybe if the area builds up we can do all those ideas.