New 16-screen movie theater coming to Bellingham's Barkley area

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDNovember 19, 2010 

BELLINGHAM - A 16-screen movie theater operated by Regal Cinemas will be built west of the Barkley Haggen store in an undeveloped field.

Where will it be? See this detailed site map (PDF)

Construction of the 68,000-square-foot facility is scheduled to begin next spring, with the theater opening in the first half of 2012, said Jeff Kochman, president of Barkley Company, which is developing the theater and surrounding property.

The movie theater is about the size of the Barkley Haggen store and will feature 3,200 stadium seats and Regal's RealD 3D, which combines high-definition digital technology with 3-D images.

There will be two very large screens, along with several medium-size and smaller-size screens in the complex.

The facility is the latest piece of Barkley Village's "Live, Work and Play," concept for an urban village, Kochman said.

"This is the absolute game-changer for Barkley," he said. "The theater increases the value to the area, bringing more people to enjoy the restaurants, other businesses and trails. It's the best entertainment component we could have asked for. This type of movie theater is long overdue for this market, and we're pleased to work with Regal to make it happen."

What the project will mean to the three other Regal Entertainment Group theaters in Bellingham is unclear. Richard Grover, director of marketing and communications, said he didn't have that information available Thursday. Regal owns the theaters at Bellis Fair, Sunset Square mall and next to the Sehome Village shopping center.

THEATER IS PHASE ONE

Speculation about what would be developed in that part of the Barkley district has been a popular topic in the community since Barkley Company cleared the area and put in stormwater improvements about a year ago.

Kochman said they considered making a formal announcement then, but wanted to make sure the financing was in place and the plans were finalized. He estimates the cost of the project in the $15 million to $25 million range.

The movie theater is one of several projects planned for the area. In the first phase that includes the theater, three buildings will be built potentially for restaurants and retail. Trails will be added and the pond will be expanded on the south side of the property. Also, Barkley Boulevard will be expanded and a traffic light installed at the Barkley Boulevard and Howe Place intersection.

Barkley Company has been working with the city on traffic impacts, Kochman said, and believes the improvements they have planned will offset the new development.

"During consultations with Regal, we've learned most of the movie-goer traffic will be post-6:30 p.m., after the normal commute rush," Kochman said.

General contractor for the project is Robinson Construction of Portland, Ore., a company experienced in building theaters, Kochman said. Other aspects of the project and subcontracts will go through a competitive bid process, which will mean opportunities for local workers.

In phase two, plans are in the works for parking garages along with retail, restaurants and residential buildings. That part of the development will take place when market conditions are favorable, according to the company.

PART OF LONG-TERM PLAN

Barkley Village has been a long, steady work-in-progress since the Talbot family bought the 200 acres in the mid-1970s. Retail and residential aspects of the area began to take form in the 1990s, starting with the Haggen store.

For the next step, which took years to develop, one of the biggest challenges was designing a large movie theater in a way that is in scale with the rest of the urban village, said Stowe Talbot, owner of Barkley Company. That includes using modern architecture techniques on the buildings, a "curved" parking lot design, and installing pedestrian-friendly features such as trails and greenery.

Talbot said eventually he wants to put in parking garages to avoid the look of a sprawling parking lot.

"I believe we've done a good job mitigating my initial concern about the scale of the building and the parking area," he said. "We don't want to lose sight of the fact we are building a community."

John Arrigoni will handle leasing options for the area. For more information about what is available, and for progress on the project, see barkleyvillage.com.

Reach DAVE GALLAGHER at dave.gallagher@bellinghamherald.com or call 715-2269. Visit his business blog online at blogs.bellinghamherald.com/business or get updates on Twitter at twitter.com/BhamHeraldBiz.

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