The developer of a proposed movie theater complex at the site of a former Price Chopper supermarket is seeking tax breaks of nearly $1 million he says are needed to help overcome downtown development costs.
RR Depot LLC, owned by local developer Sonny Bonacio, has applied to the Saratoga County Industrial Development Agency for exemptions from the sales tax on construction materials and the mortgage recording tax. The application also seeks a five-year property tax exemption on the theaters, worth an estimated $69,479 a year.
Together, the three forms of tax breaks being requested total more than $933,000 over five years.
The project proposes an 11-screen complex, including one “large screen format theater,” on the site of the former Price Chopper at Railroad Place and Church Street, two blocks off Broadway.
The theaters would be part of a larger construction project that would include a three-story building with business or professional offices on the upper floors. The property tax exemption isn’t being sought for the office sections of the building.
The requested tax breaks are justified to offset downtown development costs and by the economic activity the theaters would generate downtown, according to the application.
“Because downtown theaters still struggle for market share against their less costly mall competitors, many successful projects across the country are achieved through some degree of public subsidy or assistance,” project attorney Matthew Jones of Saratoga Springs wrote in the application.
The city’s downtown hasn’t had a movie theater since the 1970s, as movie-going shifted to suburban malls. Today, the only year-round movie theaters in Saratoga County are multi-screen complexes at malls in Wilton and Clifton Park.
The IDA has the authority to grant tax breaks as an incentive for economic development projects, but usually focuses on trying to create or retain industrial jobs, rather than service industry or entertainment jobs.
The developer estimates 25 to 30 jobs will be created in the theaters, but the application also emphasizes other purported economic benefits of new theaters: an anticipated $3.5 million in annual ticket sales and $2.5 million in annual food sales. Both would generate new sales tax revenue for the city and county.
The project is expected to cost $18 million, according to application documents.
Bonacio filed his plans with the city planning office last month. He hopes to get necessary site-plan and architectural approvals from the city Planning Board and Design Review Commission by September. Having those approvals would allow him to break ground this fall and complete construction next spring.
The county Planning Board last month gave conceptual approval to the plans.
The IDA will hear an initial presentation on the financial assistance request at a meeting Monday morning in Halfmoon. It will need to schedule a public hearing in the city before acting on the application.