When a Hollywood blockbuster opens at the Spectrum, the parking lot is packed. People mill around in the plaza outside the doors of Edwards cinemas. But across that plaza, several storefronts are empty.
The recession and slow recovery took a toll on the Spectrum, near the intersection of Cole and Overland roads. Not enough families or workers nearby go there for a bite to eat or just to hang out during the day. Moxie Java coffee shop is gone. So is Jamba Juice. The spot that held Smoky Mountain Pizza and later ComedySportz is now empty. Game World isnt there anymore; its sprawling space will be filled by a Toni & Guy beauty academy soon.
But this could be a turning point for the center.
Its owner, D.D. Dunlap Cos. of Huntington Beach, Calif., is investing more than $500,000 to build a new road, parking spaces, a drive-thru and attractions that it hopes will bring more traffic to the businesses. The plaza is now being transformed into a road that will wind between the theater and the stores, with several new parking spots on one side.
We cant stand by and let Meridian have all the fun, said Bill Gage, who is handling leases and permitting for Dunlap. In part, I think were being proactive and trying to make a difference to bring in new customers.
The changes should make it easier for drivers to drop off people in front of the restaurants and the theater, and to park long enough to get a meal or make a purchase, Gage said.
Moviegoers and others can still congregate in the large area between retail buildings, which has benches and a fountain, or on the grassy area with the volleyball court.
Will Loverde, who co-owns The Creperie with his wife, Heather, said the construction is well-timed October is the shops slowest month but has taken a chunk out of their usual sales over the past week or two.
The Creperie specializes in sweets and candy.
We really have high hopes that its going to bring out more people and make us more visible, he said.
Planning started early this year, and construction should be wrapped up by mid-November, he said.
The theater itself owned by Regal Cinemas had a 10 percent increase in business between 2011 and last year, Gage said.
More than 150,000 people drive by the center on nearby streets or on Interstate 84 each day, and Gage sees an opportunity for a store that sells coffee and baked goods to move into the drive-thru space and capture some of the 9,275 people who work in a one-mile radius.
Dunlaps plans for next year include a water-and-fire feature, such as a fountain and fire pit combo, and pop-up fountains similar to those at the Grove Plaza in Downtown Boise. Dunlap expects to add playground equipment for young families to come during the day, Gage said.
He said Dunlap would like to hear from businesses interested in leasing its spaces, and can call 938-2898.
Audrey Dutton: 377-6448, Twitter: @IDS_Audrey