OUR VIEW: Plans for theater more good news for Ravenna

Entertainment venue will be significant draw for downtown

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Plans for a movie theater in downtown Ravenna -- the first there in more than 45 years -- are another welcome indication that the city is experiencing a turnaround.

Neighborhood Development Services Inc. has finalized a deal to acquire a site on North Chestnut Street that has been vacant for several years since Paul's Do-It Center closed. The building, which originally housed a Kroger grocery store, will be renovated for an eight-screen, 20,000 square-foot movie theater. Parking will be located behind it on North Meridian Street on the site of Portage Tire, which will be demolished.

Having a movie theater in the downtown area has been a wish for many Ravenna residents. The city has been without one since the Ravenna Theater on South Chestnut Street closed in 1967.

NDS, which has renovated an eight-screen theater in Barberton, says the Ravenna theater is expected to draw 100,000 visitors per year. If that's the case, the downtown area will become a destination point, not only for Ravenna residents but for others in Portage County. Increased traffic downtown could mean increased patronage for other businesses, such as dining establishments and shops and, hopefully, could spur spin-off development.

The North Chestnut Street area where the new theater will be located has a number of vacant storefronts. A successful theater will be a much needed shot in the arm for development there.

NDS officials note that there are several hurdles that need to be dealt with before the theater is a reality. The agency plans to seek funds from the city of Ravenna's revolving loan fund, which is tied into state approval. The city's Planning Commission also must approve design plans. Depending on how long the process takes, the opening of the theater isn't likely until late this year or early in 2015.

The theater project will be an important element in the burst of redevelopment that is occurring now or on the drawing board for Ravenna. Plans for the learning center in the old high school site, the renovation of the Phoenix Block, restoration of landmark homes by Jack Kohl and Rick Hawksley, the preservation of the courthouse flagpole -- all are signs that the community is turning a corner and looking ahead to a promising future.

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