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Developer Seeks Extension on Discovery Park

Redevelopment: Builder of retail-entertainment project in Thousand Oaks wants council to grant him more time to find a movie theater tenant.

March 13, 2001|JENIFER RAGLAND | TIMES STAFF WRITER

THOUSAND OAKS — The developer of a $40-million entertainment and retail complex is asking city leaders for more time to secure a movie theater tenant, a delay that some say could ultimately result in a better deal for taxpayers.

Under existing agreements with the city, Caruso Affiliated Holdings must sign a deal with an operator of the proposed 14-screen theater by April 25, Deputy City Manager Jim Friedl said.

But theater tenants in the current environment are very scarce, so City Council members tonight will consider extending the deadline for at least six months while officials meet with Caruso to work out a solution.

Restructuring in the movie theater industry--caused by an overbuilding of U.S. screens--has made it more difficult to secure financing for theater projects, Friedl said.

The multiplex is the centerpiece of the Caruso project, dubbed Discovery Park, which also includes restaurants, retail stores, office space and a one-acre pond that could be frozen in the winter for ice skating.

The project, next to the Civic Arts Plaza, is part of a larger effort aimed at bringing a downtown core to Thousand Oaks. It includes plans for a $70-million science and technology museum known as the Discovery Center.

Rick Lemmo, a spokesman for Caruso, said the longer time frame would put everyone at ease as officials negotiate.

One way to deal with the issue, Friedl said, would be to build the project in phases, giving the theater industry time to recover while breaking ground on other components. But that would likely change the financial terms of the redevelopment deal approved last June, which is why officials need more time to study the implications, Friedl said.

Some in the community would rather see the movie theater component scrapped altogether, saying Thousand Oaks is already saturated with screens.

Councilman Ed Masry, who has voiced concerns about the viability of a movie theater, said he will go along with an extension if it benefits the Discovery Center, which many believe needs the retail and theater components of the project to bring in foot traffic.

"The whole purpose of this deal, as far as I'm concerned, is to benefit the Discovery Center," Masry said.

Resident Ann Mathias, who has been critical of the city's role in the redevelopment agreement, said she thinks the council should try to make the new deal better for taxpayers and the Discovery Center.

"I think this is their opportunity to renegotiate," she said.

The council will meet at 6 tonight in City Hall, 2100 Thousand Oaks Blvd.

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