The controversial Rouzan mixed-use development off Perkins Road is getting the first Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Louisiana, a theater chain that serves food, craft beers, cocktails and wine.
The theater is expected to begin construction next year and open in mid-2016. It will have seven screens and about 900 seats.
The Alamo Drafthouse will anchor Village Center, the commercial and retail center of the Rouzan development. The first phase will include the theater, other retailers, a 200-unit apartment complex and a parking garage.
“We held back a little bit on the retail until we could get Alamo Drafthouse done,” said Tommy Spinosa, the developer of Rouzan. Spinosa said he’s in “serious negotiations” with three or four retailers. “We’re not planning a lot of retail, but we want to be sure it’s the right retail,” he said.
The right retailers are a mix of conveniences that Rouzan residents want, like a flower shop, along with regional draws, like the movie theater.
Bringing in Alamo Drafthouse is a big get for Rouzan, which has been dogged by controversy. Nearby residents were opposed to the development because they feared it would make traffic worse. The 1st Circuit Court of Appeal ruled earlier this year that Spinosa improperly took and obstructed a 30-foot-wide servitude that belonged to two homeowners whose property is surrounded by the development.
Spinosa donated land for an East Baton Rouge Parish library branch in the development, but the library board voted to end the agreement after years of disputes over permits, traffic studies, infrastructure and who was responsible for each step in the construction process. And the legal and financial woes associated with Spinosa’s nearby Perkins Rowe development spilled over to the property.
“We’ve moved forward and played the cards dealt us,” Spinosa said. “We’re excited to be where we are today.”
The Austin, Texas-based Alamo Drafthouse has been acclaimed as “the best theater in America” by Entertainment Weekly, for showing a mix of first-run movies and classic offbeat hits, such as “The Big Lebowski,” and offering sing-alongs of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
“It’s all about preserving the filmgoing environment and offering a quality experience,” said Joseph Edwards, the vice president and chief financial officer for Cojeaux Cinemas, the franchisee that will own the local Alamo Drafthouse.
The theater has a strict “no talking, no texting” policy and instead of showing commercials before movies, it will offer programming tailored to the feature. “If there’s a Brad Pitt movie, we’ll show a commercial he was in before he became famous,” Edwards said.
The theater will offer a variety of food, such as hamburgers, pizza and chicken wings, along with 32 different craft beers, cocktails and wine for guests to enjoy before, during or after a movie. Edwards said 90 percent of the food will be made from scratch in-house. “We’re making pizza dough, making sauces and grating cheese,” he said.
“They are a smaller theater than what we are used to,” Spinosa said. “This is significant for Baton Rouge because there are only about 20 of these in existence today.”
Cities that have Alamo Drafthouses include Austin, Houston, Los Angeles, Denver and Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Spinosa said he started talking with Cojeaux about a year ago when it was looking at potential locations in Baton Rouge. Officials met with Ty Gose, of NAI/Latter & Blum, who serves on Rouzan’s leasing team. Wade Greene, of Maestri-Murrell, represented Alamo.
Spinosa said Rouzan was selected as the site for the theater because of “location, location, location.”
“We have all the elements and demographics here somebody like this would want to see,” he said.
“We think this is prime Baton Rouge real estate,” said Edwards, who with business partner Anthony Coco are natives of Beaumont, Texas.
The Alamo Drafthouse will be visible from Perkins Road, but it won’t face the street. The theater is going into an area near the once-proposed Rouzan library branch — an area that Spinosa said he would still make available for a library.
Building the theater will not require any zoning changes because Rouzan has been zoned as a traditional neighborhood development, which allows for alcohol sales in a restaurant or theater like Alamo Drafthouse, Spinosa said.
However, Alex St. Amant, an attorney for Daniel Hoover and Bob Welch, who have been fighting the Rouzan zoning, disagrees. Hoover and Welch live in two homes on 5 acres near the center of Rouzan’s surrounding 119 acres. They contend the property is still zoned A-1 single-family residential, even though the Metro Council approved a TND zoning in the spring.
“The Court of Appeal rezoned him to an A-1, and (Spinosa) doesn’t have a court order to the contrary,” St. Amant said. “He’s acted like the rezoning is fait accompli, and there are multiple issues.”
St. Amant said the rezoning is expected to go back to the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal “in a matter of weeks.”
Spinosa said each of the challenges to Rouzan made by Hoover and Welch have been met and struck down.
An official with the Southside Civic Association could not be reached for comment about continuing development in Rouzan.
Rouzan is located on 120 acres near Perkins and Glasgow Road.
The Alamo Drafthouse will be close to three existing movie theaters: the AMC Mall of Louisiana 15, the 16-screen Cinemark Perkins Rowe and the United Artists Citiplace Stadium 11. Spinosa developed Perkins Rowe, but he lost the development when a group of banks foreclosed on the property. He also developed Citiplace, but sold the theater and shopping center a few months before buying the Rouzan site in 2005.
Although Perkins Rowe and Rouzan are separate developments, Spinosa said the legal troubles with Perkins Rowe had a spillover effect.
“It would be foolish to think it didn’t exist,” he said.
The nearly 80 residential lots that have been developed in Rouzan are three shy of being sold out, Spinosa said. Work will begin in early 2015 on the next phase, which will include 120 to 150 lots of varying sizes.
Follow Timothy Boone on Twitter, @TCB_TheAdvocate.