By Jeff Gallatin
It will be lights, cameras, action again in a few months at Westfield Great Northern Mall.
Mall officials Thursday formally announced what has had many Westshore residents and businesses eagerly anticipating for more than a year: an agreement to put a 10-screen Regal Cinemas movie theater complex at the mall along with three new restaurants and a new main mall entrance in the southeast portion of the mall near the old food court. The entrance will be in the corner of the southeast wing where the existing building meets Sears. The latest stage in Westfield’s multimillion-dollar business development of the mall the last few years is scheduled to open in December 2013.
Shortly after Westfield opened its modern dining court in November 2012 and closed the old food court, corporate development officials said they were working on a theater complex development project. Since then, there has been months of speculation about the scale of the actual development, as well as what the actual businesses in it would be. The new theaters will be the first in North Olmsted since ones in the Great Northern strip closed in 2000.
“Answering the community’s request to bring movies back to the Great Northern retail district is rewarding,” Mike Walsh, Great Northern’s general manager, said. “We are dedicated to exceeding our customers’ expectations, and the new Regal Cinemas, coupled with restaurants that are unique to the area, will allow us to deliver the best shopping, dining and entertainment experience available to our shoppers.”
Area officials also were pleased with the news. When North Olmsted Mayor Kevin Kennedy made reference to the announcement and Great Northern’s marketing director, Annie Dorsey, outlined the plans during the activities at Kennedy’s state of the city address to the North Olmsted Chamber of Commerce, the announcement drew loud applause.
“It’s a great thing for the city and the area to have theaters coming back to North Olmsted,” Kennedy said.
“We’re very happy for the mall and all the businesses and people around here,” John Sobolewski, director of the chamber, said. “The movies and the restaurants should be a great draw for the city.”
Dorsey said the theaters and restaurants are a logical next step.
“We redid the dining court to make it more modern,” she said. “We also put in larger children’s play areas, as well as many family areas, and we’ve been putting in many family-friendly businesses,” she said. “The theaters and restaurants are definitely family-friendly and go along with what we’ve been doing. Westfield has been very aware that people in the area have wanted to get movie theaters back in the area. There was a movie theater in the Great Northern area from 1966 to 2000, before the old strip complex closed. So, this fills a niche in the area.”
Dorsey said the Regal Entertainment Group is putting in state-of-the art cinema screens.
“They’re modern in every way and will include a unique auditorium equipped for the Regal Premium Experience,” she said. “RPX presents movies the way filmmakers intended, with powerful, uncompressed surround sound and bright, eye-popping images in 2-D and 3-D. Guests will enjoy the custom-built premium environment featuring elegant and luxurious seats with high-back headrests. A giant immersive screen is illuminated by high-quality digital projectors and completed with a state-of-the art sound system for maximum impact.”
Dorsey said the Regal theaters also will feature another cutting-edge feature, which is currently only available on Regal cinemas: the Sony Entertainment Access System, to assist deaf, hard-of-hearing, blind and low-vision moviegoers. The system includes specially designed lightweight eyewear for deaf and hard-of-hearing guests to privately view closed-captioned text directly in their line of sight for both 2-D and 3-D movies. The technology also includes a wireless receiver for blind and low-vision guests that provides descriptive audio tracks via a pair of headsets.
Dorsey said the theaters will all open at the same time and are scheduled to open in time for the 2013 holiday season.
She said one of the three restaurants planned for area, Mama Fu’s Asian House, has already signed on.
“It’s been located in other parts of the country but is moving into the Ohio market, and offers Asian-inspired dishes that are chef-prepared and made to order,” she said. “The restaurant will open shortly ahead of the cinema.” Additional information can be obtained at www.mamafus.com.
Dorsey said the other restaurants will be named later this year.
“They’re looking to bring in ones which have styles or formats which haven’t been in this area before,” she said.
In addition to the theaters and restaurants, the new main mall entrance will be at the corner of the southeast wing where the existing building meets Sears,” Dorsey said.
“Shoppers will enjoy the continued convenience of a large parking field outside the new entrance,” she said.
Dorsey said alongside the cinemas and restaurants, the mall will open a relocated and expanded Forever 21 in the fall. The clothing fashion store, currently located near the dining court, will relocate to get a 20,000-square-foot location adjacent to the Disney Store, which Dorsey noted is the only one in the Cleveland area. Additional information on Forever 21 can be obtained at www.forever21.com.