In reimagining the Grove at Wesley Chapel and its surrounding amenities, Mark Gold aims to capitalize on shoppers’ desire for convenience and, because of the coronavirus pandemic, cleanliness.
Would you pay premium prices to go to a movie theater equipped with a spin bike room so you can work out while you watch a film? What about a supervised play area to keep your kids occupied so you don’t have to hire a babysitter?
Maybe a better question, given the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, is: Would you go to the movies at all?
‘In every theater there will be a different activity. One could be a comedy club; another one will be a movie theater for kids with a playground inside. It will be like a resort. You won’t need a babysitter. I will be the babysitter for your kids.’ Mark Gold, majority owner of Mishorim Gold Properties
Developer Mark Gold believes the answer to all three questions is a resounding yes. He’s backed up that belief with a huge investment in the Grove at Wesley Chapel, a shopping center his company, Mishorim Gold Properties, intends to transform into a residential, retail and entertainment hub.
“The idea,” Gold says, “is almost like Walt Disney’s idea. You have everybody in the same area, and there's something for everyone to do.”
Gold, 50, bought the Grove at Wesley Chapel last year for around $64 million, he says, and has since spent $10 million on renovations and upgrades, with another $100 million budgeted for retail, restaurants and housing. Israeli by birth, he’s so bullish on Wesley Chapel and its demographics he’s made the area his primary residence.
“Wesley Chapel is unique,” he says of the town in south Pasco County. “The average income is $92,000 per year, and 78% of residents finish university. You cannot find so many places [like it].”
Of course, these are also unique times, especially for retail and entertainment venues. The big challenge for Gold, whose Tel Aviv-based firm owns properties worldwide, will be to convince residents the revamped Grove at Wesley Chapel — which will also include a container park packed with 55 restaurants and retail shops, as well as a stage for live entertainment — is safe for them and their families.
Gold says the development’s renovated movie theater, which had been a Cobb Theater and Cinebistro and has been rebranded as the Cinema & Entertainment Complex at the Grove, will be outfitted with special lights that kill airborne infectants. It will also have gates that won’t allow patrons to enter if they’re running a fever. Also, staff members will use electrostatic foggers to disinfect restrooms, theaters and common areas every 15 minutes.
“You will be able to enjoy everything we have to offer without worrying about your safety,” Gold says. “It will be much safer than going to the grocery store. I’m spending a lot of money. I’m going to be there and my family (is) going to be there. It’s the smart thing to do — to protect people.”
The 85,000-square-foot cineplex, after about $7 million in upgrades, is scheduled to open within a couple of months or, as Gold puts it, “whenever Hollywood is going to release movies.” He had planned to open the venue to coincide with the Oct. 2 release of “Wonder Woman 1984,” but that film’s debut has since been pushed back to Dec. 25.
“In every theater there will be a different activity,” Gold says. “One could be a comedy club; another one will be a movie theater for kids with a playground inside. It will be like a resort. You won’t need a babysitter. I will be the babysitter for your kids.”
Gold expects the latter feature to be a big hit, given Wesley Chapel’s abundance of families with young children.
“If I want to go to a movie today, it’s very complicated,” he says. “I have to find a babysitter, I feel guilty because the kid’s crying … but here you have everything in one concept. The whole family can say, ‘Hey, let’s go out.’”
Gold, who says he spent four years looking for a development opportunity in Wesley Chapel, expects the Cinema & Entertainment Complex at the Grove to generate $9-$12 million in gross annual revenue. In addition to being a home for movies, plays and comedy shows, the venue will also have an 18-hole miniature golf course and a restaurant with table service.
Gold has equally high hopes for Krate, the open-air container park he’s building on an undeveloped parcel at one end of the Grove property. Scheduled to open in the winter, it comprises 54 restaurant and retail units — most of which are independently owned by local entrepreneurs — that will rent for at least $1,500 per month.
Krate is already nearly fully leased, Gold says, and there are 168 people on the waiting list for spaces. “It’s a chance for dozens of people to make their dreams come true,” he says.