Blacksburg's future IMAX movie theater — which will be known as Frank Theatres Cinebowl and Grille — is set to open at First & Main in May 2014. The Cinebowl and Grille will feature 12 bowling lanes, 10 regular and 3-D movie screens, one IMAX theater, arcade games and a bar and grill.
The First & Main shopping center has seen its share of tough economic times. The center first opened in 2008, right on the cusp of the recession. Since then, the center has been on a bumpy road to recovery.
At the start of the recession, the original builders handed First & Main over to the bank. The center remained in limbo for the next several years, until it was purchased by Blacksburg APF Partners in spring 2012.
Virginia Tech alumni David and Elyssa Street own Blacksburg APF Partners. Since they purchased First & Main, the Streets have been working hard to bring in an anchor tenant and national retailers to help boost the economy of the center. They are grateful to the current merchants for their hard work in keeping the center afloat thus far.
“The merchants of First & Main are a special group of people,” David Street said. “(They) kept the lights of this center on throughout some of the darkest days of the past several years.”
Blacksburg APF Partners have an agreement with IMAX Corporation that will not allow any other venue in the area to build an IMAX theater. Thanks to this exclusivity, the Cinebowl and Grille is expected to become a regional draw that will bring in tax dollars to the town of Blacksburg.
“Having (the Cinebowl and Grille) here is going to be an important anchor for this side of town,” said Mayor Ron Rordam. “It’s great for all of the south end of Blacksburg, but it’s also great for all of Blacksburg.”
Blacksburg APF Partners have a very specific vision for First & Main: making the center a destination for students and locals of all ages.
“We enjoy the idea that (the Cinebowl and Grille) reaches people of all ages,” said Elyssa Street, “It’s not just for college students. We want to have variety and have the whole community join in.“
The Cinebowl and Grille won’t be the only venue to attract families and children. Blacksburg APF Partners announced at the groundbreaking ceremony on June 13 that First & Main would become the home to a brand new children’s museum.
“We’re interested in making Blacksburg a better place for all ages,” David Street said. “A group of volunteers have worked very hard to create a children’s museum in the Blacksburg area. We wanted to help (the museum) get launched off the ground and have a permanent home.”
The children’s museum is expected to open in four to six months. According to Jeff Mitchell, general counsel to Blacksburg APF Partners, the museum will feature permanent exhibits, as well as temporary, rotating exhibits.
In addition to the children’s museum and the activities that students and locals can partake in at the Cinebowl and Grille, Blacksburg APF Partners are also confident that the new venues will draw in national retailers and restaurants.
“This is not rinky-dink: this is a regional draw,” Rordam said. “It’s going to introduce Blacksburg to new people.”
After a tough five-year stretch, the center is excited to move forward.
"The merchants of First & Main were resilient and pulled through the tough (economic) times on their own,” said Rordam. “Thanks to (the Cinebowl and Grille), we are all looking forward to a new future — a future filled with hope.”