A plan to convert an abandoned boxing club on North Broad Street into a four-screen movie theater moved closer to realization last week when the City Planning Commission approved a conditional-use permit for the site.
The commission voted unanimously to approve the request by Brian Knighten, whose company, Get the Gorilla LLC, has proposed converting a vacant 12,400-square-foot, single-story building at 636 N. Broad into a 341-seat theater. The theater would show mostly art-house films and would serve food and alcohol to patrons.
The plan still needs approval by the City Council. The site is in Councilman Jared Brossett’s district.
Knighten plans to leave the nearly 90-year-old building’s façade intact, repairing and restoring the original windows and doors on the Spanish colonial revival-style structure.
The property once housed the Charitable Bingo Hall for Developmentally Disabled Children and later a heating and plumbing company called Sciambra & Masino. It was last used as a boxing club, but it has been vacant for about a decade.
The theater will build on a recent resurgence of that area of North Broad Street, a long-depressed stretch that received a shot in the arm this year with the opening of the ReFresh Project.
The 60,000-square-foot complex in the former Schwegmann Bros. and later Robert’s supermarket building at Broad and Bienville Avenue opened in February. It includes Tulane University’s Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine, the central office for FirstLine Schools, offices for Broad Community Connections, community space and Liberty’s Kitchen, which moved from its location at South Broad and Tulane avenues.
The theater will be less than a quarter-mile from the ReFresh development.
Less than two blocks in the opposite direction, the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club earlier this year completed construction of an expansion of its clubhouse.
The theater’s site is about one block from the Lafitte Greenway, the nearly 3-mile bicycle and pedestrian path under construction. The greenway, expected to open in early 2015, will extend from Basin Street to City Park Avenue, running perpendicular to North Broad Street.
Acknowledging its close proximity to the greenway, the Planning Commission included a requirement in its approval of the theater that it provide racks for eight bicycles.
The theater proposal has drawn support from surrounding neighbors.
Mid-City Neighborhood Organization President Jennifer Farwell said the group’s board voted unanimously to support the project, both because it is an adaptive reuse of a historic building and because it would return a movie theater to an area that has craved one since Movie Pitchers closed more than a decade ago.
“The neighborhood, to put it mildly, is thrilled to have a movie theater back in Mid-City after 15 years,” Farwell said.