LARGO — The AMC Tri-City 8 movie theater has been around for decades. It doesn't have stadium seating or 20 theaters, just big, crisp screens showing the latest flicks at a cozy location right off U.S. 19.
But the Tri-City 8 is closing by the end of the year, caught up in an industry-wide trend of older, smaller multiplexes shutting their doors.
The theater isn't part of the plans for a total redevelopment of Tri-City Plaza, an aging retail center at the northwest corner of U.S. 19 and East Bay Drive. Construction is expected to start within months on a transformation of the shopping plaza, which is nearly 50 years old.
Highlights of the plan:
• The work is to be done in two phases, allowing some existing tenants to move into new quarters while the project is ongoing.
• Several buildings will be demolished and replaced. Plans show large new retail buildings on the east side of the complex and more new storefronts on the west side lining up alongside the existing Publix.
• The shopping plaza's Publix will stay the same.
• More outparcels will be added.
• The complex currently has about 218,000 square feet of space and will have nearly 230,000 when the work is done.
• Parking and roads within the complex will be reconfigured.
"It's going to make the site more functional for vehicles and pedestrians," said Largo community development director Carol Stricklin. She added that many of the new retail spaces will be larger than the existing ones and will be geared toward attracting larger tenants.
All of this information comes from plans that have been submitted to the city. For the last 20 years, Tri-City Plaza has been owned by Kimco Realty Corp., one of Florida's biggest retail landlords. Neither Kimco nor AMC Tri-City 8 would comment about the redevelopment.
Tri-City Plaza's current retail tenants include Office Depot, Dollar Tree, Radio Shack, Party City, GNC Nutrition, Fantastic Sams, Supercuts and the movie theater. There have been no announcements about the lineup of stores in the new shopping plaza.
Kimco and city officials have been talking for the past year about plans for Tri-City Plaza. The work is being kick-started now that there's major redevelopment happening on the opposite corner of the interchange where U.S. 19 crosses East Bay Drive and Roosevelt Boulevard.
There, at the southeast corner, crews are rapidly putting up a new Walmart supercenter that's slated to open by January. It will be followed by a 342-unit apartment complex called Gateway North. This is happening on a 38-acre site that was once the home of the Crossroads Mall and, before that, the Bay Area Outlet Mall.
With the apartment complex's name, the intersection's southeast corner is being branded as part of the jobs-rich Gateway area.
"Now we have the northwest quadrant in play," Stricklin said of the Tri-City project.
As for the current Tri-City Plaza, it was built according to the standards of its time. It opened in 1966, designed by the same architectural firm that designed the original Clearwater Mall and Gateway Mall — places that have since been leveled.
Mike Brassfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4151. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.