Apartments, retail stores may replace shuttered Regal Cinema property

The marquee at Regal Cinema on University Boulevard announced temporary closure this spring in the early days of the pandemic // file photo

By Eric Gorton, contributor

Coming soon to a theater near you: apartments, restaurants and retail establishments?

That’s what Armada Hoffler Properties has in mind when it eventually redevelops the Regal Cinema property on University Boulevard adjacent to James Madison University. The publicly traded real estate investment trust announced Monday that it has reclaimed the nearly 10-acre site, including the theater and its large parking lot, along with a second Regal Cinema property in Virginia Beach.

In a press release, the firm stated, “Following the tenant’s default, the company terminated its two leases with Regal Cinemas for the freestanding locations in Virginia Beach and Harrisonburg, the only cinema leases in Armada Hoffler Properties’ portfolio.”

Hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, Regal’s parent company, Cineworld, announced Oct. 5 that it was temporarily suspending operations at all of its 536 Regal theaters in the U.S. as of Oct. 8.

Attempts to reach representatives of both the local Regal Cinema and Cineworld, headquartered in Knoxville, Tenn., were unsuccessful by press time.

Chelsea Forrest, director of marketing at Armada Hoffler, said the Harrisonburg property is not for sale and will be redeveloped.

“Our focus and specialty is on creative mixed-use development and we envision a major multifamily component amongst other uses for this property,” she said.

Brent Finnegan, a member of the Harrisonburg Planning Commission, said he would welcome any development that increases foot traffic while decreasing vehicle traffic.

“We need to make the best use of the land that we have,” he said in a telephone interview when told about Armada’s statement. “Parking is not it.”

If Armada plans a development that encourages pedestrians to use the neighborhood’s underutilized sidewalks, Finnegan said he is all for it.

The property is close to JMU’s East Campus as well as numerous retail and restaurant establishments that surround it.

Finnegan said the property could be ideal for student housing.

“When you have opposition to student housing, it’s from single-family neighborhoods,” he said. “That’s not a single-family neighborhood.”

According to the city zoning map, the property is zoned B-2, a business designation that does not allow for residential use.

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