Three buildings, including Dairy Queen, could replace vacant Heights movie theater

  • The long-vacant Entertainment Cinema and Movie Gallery property on Loudon Road in Concord is seen last week. ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff

  • The long-vacant Entertainment Cinema and Movie Gallery property on Loudon Road in Concord is seen on April 8, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • The long-vacant Entertainment Cinema and Movie Gallery property on Loudon Road in Concord is seen on April 8, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

Monitor staff
Published: 4/10/2016 10:25:44 PM

A long-abandoned plot on Loudon Road – once a movie theater and video rental store – could give way to a Dairy Queen and other development.

The Hodges Companies owns 192-196 Loudon Road, which once housed Entertainment Cinema and a branch location of Movie Gallery. The property has been on the market for six years; the yellowing marquee sign outside proclaims “Four acres of land for sale. Will subdivide.”

Now, documents submitted to the city’s zoning and planning boards outline plans to replace the existing buildings with three new ones – a Dairy Queen, as well as an unnamed bank and restaurant.

Alan Johnson, president of the Hodges Companies, did not return calls for comment about those plans.

The theater was built on 3 acres on Loudon Road in the early 1980s, according to Monitor archives, and Entertainment Cinemas began leasing the property in 2002. That company eventually bought the building and the adjacent Movie Gallery location for a combined $1.5 million in 2005. That fall, the company’s owner promised an overhaul of the rundown theater.

Five years later, however, little had changed about the dilapidated building’s appearance or the parking lot dotted with potholes. In 2010, Entertainment Cinemas sold the two lots – 4 acres total – for $2 million to the Hodges Companies. The Movie Gallery next door had already closed, and the cinema’s last credits rolled in May 2010.

“The long-term plans probably would include the demolition of the cinema building and most likely the Movie Gallery building, with new development proposed as the market would allow,” Barry Sanborn, then-senior vice president for the Hodges Companies, told the Monitor at the time. “Maybe a branch bank, a few things like that.”

So the 4-acre property went on the market. This spring, six years later, the company submitted applications for new signs to the Concord zoning board and a site plan to the Concord planning board. Those documents, available for view in the city’s zoning and planning departments, show three new buildings in place of the two existing rundown structures.

One would be a roughly 2,600-square-foot Dairy Queen. In the plans, the other two aren’t designated for a specific business. At about 6,500 square feet, the larger is marked only as a “proposed restaurant” without a drive-through. The smaller, at 2,400 square feet, is titled “proposed bank” with a drive-through.

City records show the two lots are currently valued at a combined $1.9 million.

The planning board will determine the application’s completeness later this month. If approved, a public hearing and vote would be scheduled for May.

Zoning Administrator Craig Walker recalled the theater – and its leaky ceilings – as a past patron. He said he hasn’t yet received an application for a demolition permit for either of the existing buildings, but the zoning board will consider the sign variance for the new development next month.

“The last time I was in there, I had to wear my winter coat because the heat wasn’t working,” Walker said.

Carlos Baia, deputy city manager for development, recently wrote a report to the city council stating Loudon Road’s overall vacancy rate is 6.3 percent. That number is higher than last year, he wrote, but “is still an indicator of a very vibrant retail market.”

“You hate to see a property that is abandoned and deteriorating,” Baia said. “We know the owners have been marketing it for several years, so it’s very promising that they’ve got a potential development.”

He wasn’t sure what the timeframe for this development would be, or which tenants would inhabit the two undesignated buildings.

“There have been different potential projects over the years, and this one is by far the one that’s made the most progress,” Baia said.

(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321, or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)

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