The AMC cinema in The Shops at Highland Village is expected to remain open after this year, according to the property manager.
The Town of Highland Village held a joint workshop with City Council and the Planning and Zoning Commission on June 30 to receive a presentation on The Shops, whose future has been in question for the past two years. Josh Poag, president and CEO of Poag Shopping Centers, said when his company took over The Shops at Highland Village in January 2020, he expected this AMC theater “won’t last.”
“When we took over the property, we knew the lease with AMC would come in at the end of 2022,” Poag said. “If they want to stay in the property, they will ask for a substantial reduction in rent. If we want the best modern movie theatre, they will not be willing to invest and we will have to invest millions of dollars in it.
Poag said the company started looking at what it could do with the property if AMC shut down, and then the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020.
“Movie theaters were devastated and we were sure AMC was going to shut down,” Poag said.
Poag Shopping Centers began drawing up plans to replace the theater after AMC’s lease ended at the end of 2022. The company held a community meeting in October 2021 to present a plan to replace the theater with up to 560 apartments of luxury, which has been met with strong opposition from local residents who do not want additional traffic.
But the meme trading frenzy during the pandemic, in which many Robinhood stock traders bought many stocks in struggling companies like Gamestop and AMC, sent AMC stocks skyrocketing and changed the prospects for the theater chain, Poag said, giving the company more money to make the rents. Then in December 2021, the blockbuster Spider-Man: No Way Home “saved the movie industry.”
Poag said the company recently began negotiating with AMC to renew the lease, and they reached a handshake agreement for AMC to stay. Poag said the company was taking “a big financial hit to cut the rent” and keep AMC on the property.
This does not mean that Poag Shopping Centers is not looking to add apartments to The Shops at Highland Village. The Presidium team “adjusted our plan” to account for the AMC theater staying where it is and building up to 280 luxury apartments around it.
The four floors of one- and two-bedroom apartments would be located on the east side of the theater – Poag previously said Snuffer’s restaurant would be moved to The Shops – and the apartments would wrap around a parking lot and two courtyards.
A representative of the Presidium has repeatedly pointed out that the apartments will be high-end with lots of amenities and will attract young adults with well-paying jobs and some older people who want to downsize.
Council members expressed concern about the impact of the apartments on traffic, although the claimants said traffic would improve slightly – even with the added apartments – once a future building project is completed to add turning lanes at the intersection of FM 2499 and FM 407.
No action was taken – and there could not have been – during the meeting. The proposal is expected to go to P&Z and then City Council for approval, but it’s not yet clear if they’ve been scheduled for those meetings.