Costco plan would force out Ogden 6 theater in Naperville
A plan to bring a second Costco warehouse to Naperville is being hailed as an exciting replacement of a long-vacant storefront, but it also would force a popular movie theater to move or shut down.
Classic Cinemas Ogden 6 Theater rents space in the Ogden Mall shopping center, which Costco plans to buy so it can build a 159,000-square-foot store, said Christine Jeffries, president and CEO of the Naperville Development Partnership.
Costco's plan would take up 16 acres on the west side of the 33-acre Ogden Mall site, allowing the H Mart Asian grocery store and outlots including a CVS, Panera Bread and a bank to stay, Jeffries said. But Ogden 6 and several other businesses in small storefronts would have to go, she said.
Chris Johnson, CEO of Classic Cinemas and owner of Ogden 6, said he has not received official notification from his landlord that his lease will be terminated. Once he receives notification, he said, the lease gives him six months to vacate the theater at 1227 E. Ogden Ave.
"If Costco comes, 100%, we are gone," Johnson said. "We're trying to figure out the different options."
Jeffries and Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico said the city is working to help the theater find a nearby spot to make its new home.
"It's been a good institution in Naperville and it's well-liked by many, including myself," Chirico said. "There are a couple locations that are really good in the immediate area. We're trying to encourage them. We're hopeful that will come together."
Ogden 6 has been in operation since the mid-1970s and under Johnson's ownership since 1996.
In fall 2018, the theater reopened its six auditoriums after a renovation brought wall-to-wall screens and heated, reclining seats. Johnson said he went ahead with the upgrades despite a lack of assurance from his landlord about the property's future.
"We were tired of not doing anything, so we invested all of the money into it and made it nice," he said. "And the public responded fabulously."
Johnson said he'd love the theater to stay if the Costco deal falls through. And while he has begun to investigate relocation options, he said, he hasn't found one that fits.
"You don't just pick up the seats and go to another space," Johnson said. "It costs a lot of money to build a theater or relocate."
Demolishing the aging Ogden Mall buildings, including a Kmart that has stood vacant for seven years, is expected to be expensive for Costco, Chirico said. So the city is negotiating a potential sales-tax rebate to help offset some of the costs of site work.
Details about a proposed incentive offer are expected to be up for discussion during the city council's second meeting this month, set for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 18, at the Naperville Municipal Center, 400 S. Eagle St.
Chirico said he hopes the inclusion of a new Costco along a corridor the city hopes to revive will create a domino effect of filling business vacancies.
Jeffries said the warehouse retailer is known to have a strong "halo effect."
"Wherever a Costco goes, you can track an increase in sales for surrounding stores," she said. "They're just a really positive business partner."