“Over the course of probably the last decade, the deficiencies in the business community that I hear articulated from a broad section of our citizens would be a movie theater and a hotel,” said Mayor Brian Marl. “And interestingly enough, both may come to fruition here in very short order.”
Two weeks ago City Council heard about hotel plans for Saline. This week, the Saline Planning Commission took some initial steps to clear the way for Emagine Entertainment, Inc. to build a nine-theater movie complex in the former supermarket building located in the Commons at Sauk Trail.
The owners of Saline Commons, LLC sought permission to convert the property into a commercial condominium with two units so that Emagine could have ownership of the theater property. Also, Emagine needed specific approval for creating a theater in the complex.
“It has always been our vision to find an impactful tenant not only for Saline Commons but for the City of Saline itself,” wrote Pete Brown of Saline Commons in his Special Land Use project narrative.
Paul Glantz, the founder and president of Emagine expressed similar sentiments.
“It’s an overt effort on our part to try to improve the quality of life in this community,” Glantz said.
City Engineer Gary Roubal reviewed the proposals for the planners. He said that the business of dividing the property into condominium units seems unique, but something similar was done previously with the Oaks strip mall.
City Assessor Scull and attorney Nick Curcio were instrumental in analyzing the theater proposal and identifying property and zoning concerns, Roubal said. Roubal has also studied the group’s preliminary site plans.
The intention is to create a luxury nine-theater complex with stadium seating, comfy leather chairs, good food, gourmet popcorn and a bar. It would be similar to the Emagine theater in Macomb.
The people at Emagine are confident in the success of their Saline venture based on their demographic studies and they have an aggressive timetable. They hope to have it ready to open by December when many blockbuster movies are released.
Glantz talked about the history of his company starting in the late 1990s. Today there are 10 locations. He also explained his business philosophy. He thinks something extra is needed to compete for people’s entertainment dollars and for him that something is service.
“My role is to lead and set the tone from the top,” Glantz said. “It’s all about service to our guests.”
“I believe there is great value in service to others,” he added.
The effect on neighboring businesses would be a mixed blessing, Glantz said. There would be more congestion in the parking lot, but many potential customers would be drawn in, especially for restaurants. He said Mancino’s had expressed their support for his theater venture and regarding Ruby Tuesdays, he said “I’m surprised they’re not here to kiss me.”
Though no kiss was exchanged, the manager of the GNC store at Saline Commons, Patty Palombit, was present at the meeting to cheer for the theater plans.
The necessary approvals were passed unanimously by the planning commission in two separate votes. Mayor Marl was excited, saying he goes out of his way to attend Emagine theaters.
Council Recommends MMI Expansion
In addition to the theater issue, the planners also considered a final site plan submitted by MMI Engineering Solutions to build an addition to their structure at 1715 Woodland Drive. The 48,516 sq. foot warehouse addition and 5,484 sq. foot office space addition would nearly double the size of the existing building.
Roubal said that the project has already undergone two rounds of reviews, including evaluation by OHM Advisors. He added that nearly all remaining issues are easily addressed.
One of the issues that was previously resolved is the extent of the building area. City ordinance says the building should not occupy more than 30 percent of the land area, but the proposed structure occupies 37 percent. A variance was approved in May by the Saline Zoning Board of Appeals.
There was also a concern that the proposed plan was 25 spaces short of what is required in the city ordinance. MMI did an internal analysis of their parking needs which showed they actually needed fewer spaces than they would be providing.
Voting for the approval of the plan required allowing a parking space variance. It also required the applicant to address various other issues noted in prior reviews.
Marl called the plan “a solid proposal.” He moved for approval, seconded by Commissioner Cheryl Hoeft. The vote was unanimous in favor of the plan and will go to City Council for final approval.