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McPherson outlines reasoning for proposed theater complex

Map of Albemarle Theaters.png

Plans are to extend City Center Boulevard west toward Forest Park Road, marked as Route 1307, to further develop the City Center West commercial and professional project. The plans include building the proposed Albemarle Theaters on the south side of the extended City Center Boulevard.

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By William F. West
Staff Writer

Sunday, January 14, 2018

A representative of one of the partners in a proposed eight-screen movie theater complex for Elizabeth City said public demand for such an entertainment venue is one of the driving reasons behind the concept.

“I mean, we hear it all the time,” Arthur McPherson III said over the phone on Wednesday afternoon. “It's just something that we hear going around the community on a regular basis, as being something that we're truly lacking.”

McPherson said he believes voices of support for the movie theater complex will come from persons at Elizabeth City State University, College of The Albemarle, Mid-Atlantic Christian University and Coast Guard Base Elizabeth City.

McPherson said the proposed Albemarle Theaters, if approved by local officials, will be a nice location, with large reclining seats, huge screens and the highest quality of pictures and sound. “It's going to be first class,” he said.

McPherson represents McMor Development, which is comprised of the McPherson and Morrisette families. McMor developed the City Center West commercial and professional project just off Halstead Boulevard Extended.

Albemarle Theaters, if approved by the local officials, will be on the south side of what will be a City Center Boulevard that will be extended all the way to Forest Park Road.

Presently, City Center Boulevard extends west from the Elizabeth City Fairfield Inn. However, the boulevard dead-ends just past the Elizabeth City Sherwin-Williams, and motorists have to take a right onto McPherson Crossing to get back to Halstead Extended.

McMor is a partner in the project with Scott Cohen, president of RC Theatres, which is based in the Baltimore area. RC Theatres presently has the Kill Devil Hills 10 movie theater complex on the Dare County Outer Banks. 

Plans are for Albemarle Theaters to be affiliated with RC Theatres, which McPherson on Wednesday called “a high-quality company.”

McMor is also a partner in the project with Revelle Builders in Murfreesboro. 

McPherson on Wednesday noted Revelle has been constructing buildings in the Elizabeth City area for generations, with examples being the Carolina Chrysler automobile dealership off Halstead Boulevard and the Hoffer retail center off Weeksville Road.

Overall, McPherson said a new movie theater complex for the Harbor of Hospitality is something he and Elizabeth City-Pasquotank County Economic Development Director Wayne Harris have been working on for “a couple of years.” McPherson himself last month completed his service as an EDC board member.

McPherson said another factor in the decision to move ahead with the project is his belief that the national and the local economies are finally on an upswing.

“But, really, it was just trying to find the right partners, the right team to put this together,” he said. “And I feel like we've got a real good shot at bringing this to fruition.”

McPherson was asked whether he believes the situation is improving at Elizabeth City State University and about his confidence in Chancellor Thomas Conway, who was hired to take charge of ECSU in January 2016 amid turmoil and declining enrollment.

“Obviously, that population is right in the sweet spot for this type of attraction,” McPherson said of ECSU's student body and staff as a base for customers.

Additionally, McPherson said he believes Conway has stabilized the situation on ECSU's campus.

McPherson also said he believes the N.C. Promise Tuition Plan, designed to reduce tuition this autumn for in-state undergraduates at ECSU, “absolutely is a positive for this project.”

The Elizabeth City City Council this past Monday unanimously voted to set a public hearing for Jan. 22 to consider a local Business Investment Program incentive with Albemarle Theaters.

City Manager Rich Olson, in a memo to the city councilors, said the project is estimated to create three full-time jobs and 20-plus part-time positions.

If the city and Pasquotank County both approve the incentive, Albemarle Theaters will receive a major break on property taxes for years.

That tax break would be similar to the one awarded to help foster the development of the Tanglewood Pavilions shopping center to the west off Halstead Extended.

Olson, who has been Elizabeth City's city manager since 2003, said the municipal government has been close to recruiting theaters a couple times, but he said the deals never worked out.

In October 2013, a representative of Indiana-based Thompson Thrift Development phoned The Daily Advance to announce plans for what's now the Tanglewood Pavilions shopping center. A reporter at the time asked the representative about a movie theater complex at the future retail development.

The representative said brokers working on behalf of the property owner had spoken to various movie theater groups about their interest in locating a multiplex theater at the site. The representative said Thompson Thrift hadn't been involved in those discussions.

McPherson over the phone on Wednesday recalled Thompson Thrift apparently deciding not to put their business development chips on having a movie theater complex for Elizabeth City.

“We are going to try to do it,” he said.

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