The former Price Chopper on Railroad Place could become the home of an 11-screen movie theater under a proposal now being reviewed by city officials.
The empty supermarket would be re-oriented to face the corner of Railroad Place and Church Street and turned into a theater and commercial space, according to plans filed with city and county planning officials.
The Saratoga County Planning Board on Thursday gave its approval to the concept, though the plans have yet to receive any city approvals.
“For downtown Saratoga, it fits right in,” county senior planner Michael Valentine said at the Planning Board meeting in Ballston Spa.
County planners said an IMAX theater is a possibility for the site, but project developer Sonny Bonacio declined to confirm that later Thursday, saying he has no deals with anyone at this point.
Bonacio, the president of Bonacio Construction, said he believes people want Saratoga Springs to have a downtown movie theater. “We’re trying to make an attempt to get a particular type of tenant downtown,” he said.
Downtown Saratoga Springs has no commercial movie theaters and hasn’t in decades, though the third floor of City Hall is sometimes used for special event film screenings.
Most multi-screen movie theaters are located in suburban shopping malls like Wilton Mall, but new downtown theaters like the Bow-Tie cinema in Schenectady have contributed to other downtown revitalizations.
In filing plans with the city, Bonacio said, “We’re hoping to lure an operator. It’s an amenity people want.”
Bonacio’s company has been the primary force behind the redevelopment of the Railroad Place area west of Broadway, where high-rise buildings containing restaurants and shops with condominiums above have risen in recent years.
Bonacio’s company built the six-story building at the corner of Railroad Place and Division Street where a new upscale Price Chopper recently opened, but the question of what would happen to the old one-story Price Chopper at the other end of the block has lingered.
According to the application, the 24,000 square feet of the old supermarket would be converted into an 11-screen theater.
Another 36,000 square feet of commercial space is proposed around the old market, with buildings of up to three stories. Bonacio declined to say how much the project might cost.
The county Planning Board approval, which is only advisory to city officials, is just the first of several the plans will need.
The proposal is due to be reviewed by the city Planning Board at its July 11 meeting. Because the building is in the downtown historic area, the city’s Design Review Commission will also review the plans for their exterior architectural appearance.
Valentine said he expects that the theater proposal may raise traffic flow issues the city Planning Board will want to discuss, given the amount of activity now on Railroad Place and the amount of traffic on Church Street.
If the plans go forward, the theater would be less than a block from where a new parking deck is being built on Woodlawn Avenue.