A weathered movie theater that has stood empty and shuttered on Brookline's doorstep for two years could soon give way to shops and a brand-new hotel.
The Newton-based Boston Development Group has filed paperwork with the Boston Redevelopment Authority to start planning discussions for the site of the defunct Circle Cinemas and the adjacent Applebee's restaurant. According to the letter, the developer is seeking to build a "limited-service" hotel with 150 rooms and 24,000 square feet of retail space on the property, which straddles the Brookline-Boston line in Cleveland Circle.
"That's what's been done at this point," said Kara Brewton, Brookline's economic development directory. "There have not been any plans or specific proposals filed with the city or with us, however we know they are interested in developing the site."
Brewton said her office has been in contact with representatives of Boston Development, which is also planning a residential project on a nearby Beacon Street property, and expects to have more details in the coming week. A representative for Boston Development could not immediately be reached for comment.
Among the details Brewton is waiting for is the the location of any new construction on the site. Brookline officials would like to see at least part of the building built on the Brookline side of the narrow property so town officials and residents can have a greater say in what is built there.
"The zoning is certainly more flexible in the Boston side, however Brookline has been working hard to make sure that there is some significant portion of the building in Brookline," Brewton said.
Brookline officials are currently studying whether zoning rules for properties like the Circle Cinema site make them too difficult to develop and leave the town with empty, disused buildings. A meeting on the Circle Cinema site is already scheduled for Oct. 5.
Town officials and urban planner have speculated on the future of the Circle Cinema site since the theater closed in September 2008. Rumors have circulated about plans for a big-box pharmacy, a new theater or a liquor store, but many neighbors have held out hope that a hotel or similar project would emerge.
Many hurdles remain for the developer, including the property's awkward position on the town line, its narrow shape and limited street access, and traffic problems that already plague the Cleveland Circle intersection. Brewton said any kind of development on the site would also likely require some kind of change to current zoning rules.
The development director argues that it would be in Brookline's best interest to encourage the developer to build on the town's side of the property, pointing to the recently built Star Market in Chestnut Hill, where the building's placement on the Newton side of the property meant Brookline was shut out of the planning process.
"Development can happen with or without Brookline," Brewton said. "We can either go through this and try to pull up our drawbridges, or we can go forward working with the city and developer to try to get something that works for the community."