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Center plan adds theater

The Baltimore Sun

A 14-screen movie theater with reserved seating and a full-service restaurant with leather seats has been added to the projects planned for the expansion of Village South at Waugh Chapel shopping center.

Developers of the 80-acre Gambrills complex said the theater will bring a much-needed moviegoing option for area residents, who now have to go to Annapolis or Hanover to see the latest blockbuster. It will join Wegmans Food Market and Target amid a mix of homes, office and retail space that will be built on top of a fly ash dump, an expansion that has drawn local opposition.

"Right now, there's not a theater in that local market," said Brian J. Gibbons, president and chief executive officer of Greenberg Gibbons Commercial Corp., the developer. "This will really give them a local attraction that they don't have. We really wanted to make it the location for the community of Crofton, Gambrills and Odenton."

Gibbons said bringing Birmingham, Ala.-based Cobb Theatres into the fold does more than provide a convenient theater. The chain announced last week that the 65,000-square-foot multiplex at the Village at Waugh Chapel South will have digital projection screens with three-dimension capabilities and might host sporting events and concerts.

In an upper-level seating balcony, moviegoers will find a Cin?Bistro restaurant and bar consisting of 350 premium seats and concierge service. There are also oversized leather loveseats, with in-seat service for food and drinks. The area will be restricted to ages 21 and older.

Cobb Theatres operates 166 screens in the Southeast and has 89 in development. According to its Web site, the company's signature screens are in Florida, and it plans to open two Cin?Bistros at locations in Miami and Tampa this summer.

"It's a truly unique entertainment experience," Jeremy Welman, chief operating officer of Cobb Theatres, said in a statement. "We think Village South is the ideal setting for our first Mid-Atlantic location."

A state order requiring the site owner to clean up contaminated water found near its coal ash dump site has stalled the proposed shopping center expansion. Developers hope it will open in 2010.

Community activists have opposed the expansion from the start, arguing that it would bring too much traffic to busy Route 3 and that "big box" stores are not right for the area. Last year, the Greater Crofton Council, an umbrella association of community associations, opposed the shopping center development because of health concerns about sulfates leaching into the groundwater and asked the county to postpone construction for five years.

"We don't want a regional shopping center, and that's what it is. And a movie theater is definitely a regional thing," said Torrey Jacobsen, the former president of the GCC and its outgoing planning and zoning chair.

Claire Louder, executive director of the West Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce, said shoppers will love the new options and that the new project is a "quality development."

"If we're going to have development, to have the quality commercial development that this theater and other projects represent is really wonderful," Louder said. "It is certainly the kind of thing that one would expect given the population of Crofton. People are realizing that we have a population that can support these projects."

Sun reporter Nicole Fuller contributed to this article.

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