As reported last week on this website, National Development expects to ask voters at Lynnfield town meeting to approve what is described as a speciality cinema for Phase 2 of the MarketStreet Lynnfield project.
Phase 2 would not open until late 2014 or early 2015, Ted Tye of National Development told Lynnfield Patch earlier this month. .
While the proposed 8-screen cinema itself is new, discussions of a movie theater at MarketStreet Lynnfield have been going on since the earliest days of the project in 2007 when an initial proposal envisioned 16 screens before being scaled back.
A movie theater was not included as a permitted zoning use back in 2007 for what would become MarketStreet Lynnfield, and in 2009, the idea came up short of the required two-thirds majority at town meeting. Still, Tye pointed out last week that the proposal was still able to get a majority vote while the recession was still underway and while construction was still very far off. This year's town meeting is scheduled for April 29th.
This week, Lynnfield residents Wallace McKenzie and Joe DeMaina spoke with Lynnfield Patch about their concerns regarding the proposed specialty cinema. Both are among the Lynnfield residents who live closest to the project. Since the early days of the project, the two have been among its most high-profile critics. During this week's conversation with Lynnfield Patch, both reiterated their longstanding beliefs that project in the long run will be bad for the town's property values and character - while also maintaining that the movie theater is inconsistent with MarketStreet as an upscale destination.
"One fear is that this thing will continually get worse if you don't make a stand at some point," said DeMaina. "You have to at some point enforce the rules that everyone agreed to."
For his part, McKenzie downplayed the idea that the two were speaking out in opposition to the proposed cinema at MarketStreet. "It's not opposing it," he said. "What we're asking is for National Development to honor the commitment that was made back in 2007."
McKenzie also believes that town voters' initial approval of MarketStreet "never would have happened" if they had known that six years later, the question of a cinema would be back front and center. While Phase 2 would not open until perhaps 2015, the two also noted that the traffic upgrades at Walnut Street and the initial police/fire needs were not made with the expectation of a theater in the mix. Five or so months before the first store has opened off Walnut Street, said DeMaina, there's "not enough room" for traffic under the current layout.
Last week, Tye told Lynnfield Patch that the proposed cinema is "something really tailored to this development and Lynnfield" and that it would also be a a third to half the size of movie theaters found elsewhere on Route 128. The National Development managing partner also reported that the cinema would be located in a far corner of MarketStreet with no abutters and that it would be "a little more upscale than normal theaters."
Still, both McKenzie and DeMaina questioned just how possible it is to define the "specialty" part of "specialty theater," and they also raised the possibility that in some future year, town voters could be asked to approve more movie screens. McKenzie also noted that a movie theater was one of 14 uses prohibited under zoning bylaws in 2007 for the site. "It's an 8-screen multiplex, let's get over it," said McKenzie.
Editor's Note: Joe DeMaina is the father of Patch Associate Regional Editor Daniel DeMaina.