HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) –The City of Huntsville has announced the Madison Square 12 theater owned by TouchStar Cinemas is no longer part of redevelopment plans for the Madison Square mall area. At one point the city planned on purchasing the property for the project and building a connecting through the area.
In a written statement from the city, Urban Development Director Shane Davis said, “We reached out to the owners of TouchStar Cinemas months ago and had a good faith conversation about acquiring their property as part of a redevelopment of this area. The owners expressed a positive interest. It appears they have changed their position, and we have been surprised by their recent aggressive and highly negative publicity campaign. We are reevaluating our road and infrastructure plans and decided we will move forward without the theater.”
Davis says the property affects one segment of the redevelopment roadway plan. The Sanderson Road connection to Research Park Boulevard will be reworked around the theater.
“The redevelopment of the area and the proposed public infrastructure improvements can and will move forward without the theater. We wish TouchStar Cinemas continued success in their current location,” added Davis.
The City of Huntsville's effort to revitalize the site of Madison Square Mall, is a plan to redevelop the entire area and expand onto the east side of Cummings Research Park.
However, the Madison Square 12 Theater is not on board with being demolished.
The current owners acquired the theater, and the 6 acres it sits on, in 2008.
And it's no secret, just a year and a half ago the theater was infested with crime, and it was far from nice. Owner Bimal Dittani, and his family, decided to take a chance and make a new start.
Today the theater is thriving and fighting for the show to go on.
"It was horrible a year and a half ago,” admitted Dittani. “Then we decided to pump in millions of dollars into this place."
Every inch on the inside of the theater was replaced in a nearly $3 million renovation.
"We got licenses from the city, did everything the right way and made this place perfect," said Dittani.
Right when you walk in you will notice; new concession, floors, projectors, and 700 luxury electronic recliners.
"Before the renovation we had about 4-5 people. We have about 35 employees now," said Dittani.
The theater caters to 30,000 customers a month.
"We are sold out every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night," explained Dittani.
Huntsville’s first luxury theater is in an unlikely place. But as the community has supported the theater they plan to expand with additional theaters and a kitchen for food service. However, these plans have been put on pause.
The excitement was put on hold when the city of Huntsville notified the owners of Madison Square 12 about the redevelopment plan and the fate of the theater.
"They want to condemn our property and they want to put a road through our property," said Dittani.
The city wants to find a win-win for the theater and city.
A Sanderson Road extension would go through the theater's current footprint to create a third access point into Research Park.
"Anything is for sale, I understand that, but not this way," said Dittani.
In less than 24 hours the theater has 400 signatures on a petition to keep the theater.
However, the city wants to work with the theater and help make the Madison Square Mall property an asset to the city, with an impressive mixed use development.
"I didn't spend all my time and money here to sell the property. Even if I want to sell it regardless of how much money it is, I wouldn't like it if somebody bullies me and takes it from me," expressed Dittani.
The city stresses they will work with Madison Square 12 to find a place to relocate.
The next step in the acquisition is for a third party appraiser to assess the property and make an offer.