ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A long-shuttered retail center in the middle of Albuquerque is getting new life with a movie theater and restaurants set to move in soon. From the shuttering of iT’Z Family Food and Fun and the old buffet years ago, to last year’s closing of the Movies 8 dollar theater, the plot of land off San Mateo, north of Montgomery, has sat vacant. Now, developers hope it will become the next Friday night hot spot.
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“It wasn’t unexpected. This was a dollar theater that was showing movies that were already a few months old and all of us had access to on Netflix and Hulu,” said Scott Goodman, vice president of Goodman Realty Group. “We weren’t shocked but we were disappointed.”
Left with load-bearing walls and slanted floors, it was hard for developers to find someone to move in without costly construction. However, now, the building is getting fresh life, with renovations planned by Icon Cinema, which already has a location in the Four Hills shopping center off Central and Tramway.
“It was a perfect fit for them because in their perspective when you’re looking at expanding, how many vacant movie theaters are available in the city?” said Goodman. “This was an amazing opportunity for them and an amazing opportunity for us because it allows a lot of what this theater was to be reused.”
The revived movie theater isn’t the only business getting a facelift on the large plot of land. Earlier this year, Dion’s announced plans to move their commissary into the old 53,000-square foot iT’Z building that closed in 2016.
“For a few years, we looked at leasing it to a few different types of tenants but where we were seeing the most activity was in either in trampoline parks or fitness gyms. Both of those worried us a bit because we’ve seen a lot of trampoline parks and fitness gyms open up in Albuquerque in the past few years. We were talking internally, how many more could there be and is this a concept that will survive for long term,” said Goodman, who says it was a relief when they were approached by Dion’s. “For what we thought was going to be an issue with the kitchen and the pizza oven ended up being a selling point for them.”
The restaurant also decided to buy the lots east and west of the building with plans to open a maintenance building and a new restaurant location off San Mateo, as well as a two-story office building, creating Dion’s corporate campus. Goodman Realty Group says they’re also working to transform the old buffet behind Hooters that’s been shuttered for 15 years, into a “ghost kitchen.” It would create multiple mini kitchens inside for businesses opening online, via delivery.
“The idea would be to take this and turn it into multiple miniature kitchens that will be individually rented out to restaurant users. You’re seeing a lot of restaurant business become online and not needing a presence,” said Goodman. “When you go to DoorDash or Grubhub, you could see a Shake Shack, an In’N’Out, a Joe’s Crab Shack and order their menu as if they were here without them needing to necessarily be here and it allows them to enter the market slowly.”
Goodman says Hooters is also seeing enough success to expand. With any luck, developers hope this will become the next ‘it’ spot in Albuquerque.
“You’re going to end up going from an empty parking lot like it is now to being a completely packed parking lot and being an area to come hang out on a Friday night,” said Goodman. “We hope this is a spot you can go to without having to go to downtown or Uptown, but you could go to a ‘Midtown.'”
The new Icon Cinema location expects to be open later this year, just in time for the holiday movie season. Goodman says he hopes Dion’s and Icon can work together to even bring pizza in for moviegoers.
The commissary is set to open sometime next year. Plans to open the new San Mateo restaurant location are expected in 2023 with the business offices planned for the following year.