Dine-in theater, entertainment center coming near 71st Street and Memorial Drive
The site will benefit from a city sales tax incentive
Jeffrey Benson has opened three dine-in movie theaters and entertainment centers in Texas and has a fourth one on the way.
Now, thanks in part to a city of Tulsa incentive program, he is bringing his Cinergy Entertainment business to Oklahoma.
Benson, company CEO and founder, told city councilors Wednesday that Tulsa’s 60,000-square-foot entertainment center will be built inside existing commercial properties, including Village Movies 8, at 6808 S. Memorial Drive.
The city is describing its incentive agreement with Benson, which has yet to be finalized, as a pilot project. The city has a retail incentive policy in place to help attract big-box stores, but the agreement with Benson would be different because the incentive — in the form of a sales tax rebate — would be used to help developers rehabilitate existing structures.
The pilot program is intended to help revitalize the city’s many vacant and blighted retail spaces.
Under the proposed agreement, Benson would receive a sales tax rebate of up to $53,405 a year for 10 years as long as the entertainment center meets employment and gross sales requirements.
As currently proposed, the company would have to reach gross sales of $6.6 million a year and employ about 100 people, he said.
The proposed development site generates approximately $66,000 a year in sales tax revenue, according to the city. The figure is expected to increase to $267,000 in Cinergy Entertainment’s first year of operation.
The Dallas-based businessman said he expects to spend $3.5 million renovating the existing structures and $5 million to equip the entertainment center. “It is going to feel like a completely different space,” Benson said.
Councilor Anna America thanked the city’s legal department and economic development team for working to accommodate the developer. In the past, America noted, the city often lost development deals because it could not offer incentives to business owners interested in developing aging or under-performing retail spaces.
“This council has been very clear that we set as a real priority that we have this issue all across the city in these aging retail areas,” America said. “We have a policy that only incents, essentially, construction that goes toward public infrastructure, (and) we realized that the existing policy does not support what we all say is our goal.”
District 5 City Councilor Karen Gilbert questioned Benson about why he chose to build in the busy south Tulsa area, noting that there are other areas of town with plenty of vacant and underused retail space. Benson responded with a simple answer: supply and demand.
“The underlying real estate is great,” Benson said. “71st and Memorial is akin to Main and Main in Tulsa. You are across from Woodland Hills Mall … (and) there are 251,000 people within five miles with average household incomes of over $80,000. … Demographically, it is very, very strong, and this type of amenity is missing in that part of the city.”
Gilbert said she was glad to see that the city was working to incentivize the redevelopment of unused retail space and that she hopes the program will be used in other parts of town as well.
Kathy Taylor, the city’s chief of economic development, introduced Benson to councilors Wednesday, saying projects like his offer the kind of “destination experiential retail” consumers are looking for.
Cinergy Entertainment’s facilities in Texas are in Copperas Cove, Midland, Odessa and Amarillo. Tulsa’s entertainment center will be the first constructed inside a finished building.
“As you guys know,” Benson told councilors, “Amazon has really put the kibosh on a lot of retailers, so there are a lot of empty boxes out there nationwide. I think you guys are doing something smart that a lot of other cities should consider.”
Source: Tulsa World