East Hartford reveals new plans for movie theater site

The old Showcase Cinemas location in East Hartford is being considered for a new downtown plan. (WFSB file photo)

East Hartford leaders unveiled a plan that would change an entire section of the city.

The proposal would cost a lot of money and take a whole lot of time.

Some leaders wanted to transform an old movie theater into a casino.

Now, that dream is dead but in its place is a proposal that wouldn’t just change this parking lot, it could transform the entire city.

For more than a decade the old Showcase Cinemas has sat in East Hartford.

A silent, empty reminder of a once thriving business that morphed into nothing more than a vacant building, but now city leaders believe this eyesore can be a big part of an East Hartford renaissance.

“Status quo is not an option we need to grow our community and we need to invest in it,” said East Hartford Mayor Marcia Leclerc.

The development of the Showcase Cinema site and the adjoining Silver Lane Plaza could be the first domino to fall in a $15 million plan to revitalize the one-and-a-half-mile section of East Hartford known as the Silver Lane corridor.

Highlights include new townhomes, stores, restaurants, and green spaces that help create a beautiful walkable community.

“The people of East Hartford are tired of having to leave our town to go find a restaurant find retail they want to see development along Silver Lane,” said Rich Kehoe, East Hartford Town Council Chairman.

The full plan would likely take at least 20 years, but city leaders believe they can get movement on the Showcase Cinemas area within 6 months.

“The motto is going to be ‘live, work, play’ that’s what millennials are looking for that’s what my age group is looking for,” said Leclerc.

On Thursday night, city leaders unveiled the early stages of this plan at a town meeting at Silver Lane Elementary and most people said they liked what they heard.

“They have a lot going forward that’s positive so I have a lot of optimism,” said Holly Reed of East Hartford.

Craig Davis lives in the Silver Lane area and he’s heard promises about development in the past, including the plan to turn the Showcase Cinemas site into a casino.

Davis says this proposal feels different and he’s pretty excited.

“I do like to see all that good redevelopment going on,” said Davis.

There were a couple of people at Thursday’s meeting that didn’t want to appear on camera, but remain skeptical that a plan like this can get off the ground and there are still plenty of challenges ahead.

City leaders say the key is the money. They have $15 million, including $12 million from the state to make this happen, which is a great starting point, but again this project will take a lot of time and a lot more cash to complete.

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