P&Z Watch: Demo of Movie Theater Proposed; 5,000 sq ft Restaurant and Pedestrian Plaza Proposed

GP Holding Company, an affiliate company of Greenwich Plaza, has submitted an updated application to Greenwich Planning & Zoning that includes renovation of Greenwich train station, demolition of the unoccupied 16,000+ sq ft, 654 seat movie theater and construction of an addition with 5,000+ sq ft restaurant on the corner of Railroad Ave and Steamboat Road.

In addition to the train station and empty theater, the block is currently home to Signature Cycle, Gym Source, Rink & Racquet, Citi Bank, Olive Branch restaurant, Planet Pizza, and empty spaces formerly home to The Greenwich Bank & Trust Company and Hopscotch Salon.

Greenwich train station

Back in 2019, a proposed public-private partnership involved Greenwich Plaza’s purchase of air rights from the town. The Town and Greenwich Plaza were unable to reach an agreement on the air rights portion of the partnership, and the project was scrapped.

Funny enough though, during the public hearings in 2019 some property owners were concerned that the proposal for six small “luxury” movie theaters with upscale food service, would cause parking and traffic problems. At the time, Peter Berg chair of the RTM land use committee said, “We have got to find a way to repopulate downtown.”

What a difference a pandemic makes.

After the pandemic swept through, Bow Tie reopened briefly with Covid precautions in August 2020, but has since closed permanently.

In April 2022, AMC Theatres finalized a deal with Bow Tie to purchase and operate seven locations in Connecticut, but Greenwich was not one of them.

But in the wake of the pandemic restaurants and food use businesses are thriving.

A new 200+ seat Greek restaurant was recently approved in August on Lewis Street a stone’s throw from Greenwich Avenue.

Van Leeuwen Ice Cream opened this month at the bottom of the Avenue. At a media and family event, Ben VanLeeuwen said the location, surrounded by great restaurants, was ideal.

Existing movie theater building at corner of Steamboat Road and Railroad Avenue would be torn down.

According to the new application, the theater’s physical deficiencies worsened over the past three years.

Already over 50 years old, the theater’s roof is in poor condition and the building experienced significant water damage after remnants of Hurricane Ida hit Greenwich.

View of unoccupied movie theater and retail spaces east of the train station on Railroad Ave.

As recently as February 2022, the applicant returned with a scaled down proposal.

Much of the P&Z feedback was about architecture of the renovated train station, and whether it fit in with the historic buildings of Greenwich Avenue.

The applicant described the train station’s architecture as “mid century modern.” But the commission balked, saying 1970 was not exactly mid century.

In returning to P&Z with a new application in October, the applicant addressed P&Z feedback.

First, they were asked to carefully consider the materials used for the building and encouraged to use a high quality material.

In response, the application says materials have been carefully chosen “to enhance the building’s civic status and to reference other historic buildings in the Greenwich downtown area.”

Piers on the station’s facade will be clad in limestone panels with a gray granite base. Metal curtainwall and canopy will be aluminum with a bronze finish.

The narrative talks about how ridership on Metro-North trains continues to increase, though peak ridership on weekdays is well below pre-pandmic levels.

The existing theater would be replaced with a new 7,879 square foot mixed-use addition that will include a 4,975 square foot restaurant space and pedestrian plaza with green areas and outdoor restaurant seating.

The building with the restaurant would be setback by more than 20-feet from Railroad Avenue, and nearly 30-feet from Steamboat Road, allowing for generous sidewalks and opportunities for landscaping and outdoor seating.

In addition, access to the train platform will be redesigned to provide improved pedestrian access and egress by means of a new staircase, and the unsightly refuse area that currently exists adjacent to the existing building along Steamboat Road will be relocated.

The new proposal also includes renovation of existing retail spaces to the east of the train station, as well as refacing and renovating the station itself “for a more distinguished presence.”

Inside the station, the first floor entrance will be renovated and feature new lighting for a more open feel. On the second floor the defunct ticket booth will be removed to reflect Metro-North’s new electronic ticketing process, with tickets purchased online or at a kiosk. As a result, the waiting area will be enlarged.

West of the train station, the existing building footprint will remain a mix of commercial spaces. Per the narrative, Citibank and Signature Cycle plan to stay put.

While the applicant’s preferred use west of the train station is for retail, they would like to include some office space in the final build-out. The applicant believes that providing small office opportunities adjacent to the train station may be desirable in the post-COVID real estate market.

The application has yet to scheduled for a P&Z agenda, but the applicant’s narrative said they hope to be on an agenda in coming months.