News Column

Bowling, theaters planned for Jupiter's Abacoa

June 9, 2014

By Bill DiPaolo, The Palm Beach Post, Fla.

June 09--JUPITER -- Bowling, billiards, bars, a dozen movie theaters and live music -- all in the same building -- are planned for a now-vacant spot in Abacoa's Town Center.

"This will be the anchor that has been missing to bring people back to Town Center," said Scott Hedge, the project manager.

The Jupiter-based Frank Group, which in December opened Revolutions in CityPlace in West Palm Beach, plans to submit formal plans to Jupiter next month to build a 75,000-square-foot entertainment complex, walking distance from Roger Dean Stadium, on the former site of the Crown Theatre. The opening of CineBowl & Grille is planned for late 2015, according to a company press release.

The past five years have been tough for Abacoa Town Center merchants, said Dennis Witkowski, owner of JJ Muggs Stadium Grill, which employs about 40 people near the proposed entertainment center.

When the 16-screen Crown Theatre was demolished in 2010, his business dropped about 20 percent. The economic boost many expected from the opening of Max Planck Florida Institute and Scripps Research Institute never materialized, Witkowski said. More bad news came in 2010 when Wells Fargo Bank filed a foreclosure lawsuit in Palm Beach County Circuit Court against Abacoa Town Center. The bank seeks repayment of a $15.6 million loan used for the purchase and renovation of the open-air center.

"Stores closed. Business went down. People stopped coming," Witkowski said.

But a revival might be happening in the commercial center of Abacoa, the non-gated project touted as the latest example of new urbanism when it opened in 2001 at Donald Ross Road and Military Trail.

A four-story Courtyard Marriott on the northwest corner of University Boulevard and Main Street opened this past week. The 128-room hotel is expected to be especially busy during February-March spring training season and summer youth baseball tournaments.

"(The entertainment center) is extremely important to the revitalization of Town Center. With the opening of the hotel, there are more reasons for people to come back here," said Beth Kelso, executive director of Abacoa Property Owners' Assembly.

Construction is continuing at The Allure at Abacoa, a development of 300 apartments and 70,000 square feet of retail.

"CineBowl & Grille will not only provide a place for the community to gather in a family friendly social environment, but will stimulate the renewal of the Town Center and local job market," said Jupiter Councilwoman Wendy Harrison.

The Frank Family Entertainment Group owns and operates 25 theater locations and 300 screens nationwide. The company also develops, owns and operates numerous shopping centers, retail and residential properties, restaurants, nightclubs, hotels and condominium developments. The Cinebowl & Grille on Lyons Road west of Delray Beach in Delray Marketplace, opened in 2013, has 12 movie screens and 16 bowling lanes.

The entertainment center and Marriott Hotel opening are a big boost, but what Abacoa Town Center needs to emerge from its economic doldrums is to get out from under the foreclosure shadow, Witkowski said.

"Until we get out of foreclosure and back on the market, we will continue to struggle," he said.


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Source: Palm Beach Post (FL)

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