A major Bronx cineplex could soon be a “Woodbury Commons” type retail outlet mall.
The Whitestone Cinemas at 2505 Bruckner Boulevard, home to the Whitestone Multiplex Cinema since 1983 and a drive-in theater before that which opened in the 1950s was sold for a reported $30 million.
Sources said that the buyer is now putting together a team that in the next few weeks will begin outreach and planning to develop a mall.
The site on Bruckner Boulevard was sold Wednesday, May 9 from the movie amusement company KBT Theaters LLC of Norwood, MA to a subsidiary of the real-estate holding company Lightstone Group, according to the city Department of Finance website.
Community Board 10 district manager Kenneth Kearns said that he had heard about plans to develop the site into a Woodbury Commons-style outlet mall, but at that time it was not confirmed.
There is also a lease agreement on file for KBT Theaters to continue leasing the property.
A spokeswoman for the Lightstone Group declined comment on the property and its future use.
Any business or non-profit that would bring large amounts of truck traffic would cause issues because the roadway infrastructure nearby needs a great deal of repair, said Jim McQuade, chair of CB 10’s Economic Development Committee. If there were some other use that would require a great deal of new construction and excavation at the site, it might require extensive environmental remediation as well, McQuade added.
“The whole parking lot is built on swamp land,” McQuade said. “And the property would likely be tagged for environmental remediation because it is so close to Westchester Creek. Their outflow is right into the creek.”
The addition of still another shopping center, with construction on the Hutchinson River Parkway service road of a new Target and several other stores, in addition to a nearby Home Depot, Pepsi bottling plant, and other industrial business on Brush Avenue, would further strain the infrastructure, McQuade said.
Local businessman and CB 10 member Bob Bieder speculated that it is likely that any tax abatements issued for the construction of the movie theater may have expired, and the land may have needed to be sold.
“Lightstone Group is an investment company and this is a place for them to put money,” Bieder said. “They are chomping on properties, looking to invest their money somewhere.”
Bronx Times Reporter columnist and historian Bill Twomey said that the first drive-in opened in New Jersey in 1933, but the Whitestone Drive-In opened at the height of the public’s interest in drive-ins before experiencing a decline in the 1970s.
“I remember going there as a kid,” Twomey said. “Many people would pile into the car because they charged something like 50 cents per car, and then once they were inside, they would pile out.”