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New drive-in theater might be coming in the fall

Bill DeYoung

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Rooftop Cinema Club operated a pop-up drive-in near Armature Works in Tampa from October through December 2020. Photo: Rooftop Cinema Club

St. Petersburg hasn’t had a drive-in theater since the long-ago days of the Sky-Vue, the Garden, the 28th Street and the Mustang.

If things go developer Joe Furst’s way, however, there will be a new one, in the Warehouse Arts District, by early fall.

Furst, whose Place Projects owns and has proposed new development on several acres of land along 22nd Street South, is in talks with California-based Rooftop Cinema Club to construct a drive-in, with a 64-foot projection screen, on three vacant acres of land between Three Daughters Brewing and the Morean Center for Clay.

“When they (Rooftop) understood what we were doing there, tying into the community and thinking about the future trajectory of the neighborhood, they really wanted to be a part of it,” Furst said.

The site is zoned for Industrial Traditional (IT), which means Place Projects has had to apply for a Special Exception from the city. “Hopefully we’ll be in front of commission over the summer,” said Furst, “and then open sometime soon thereafter, September at the earliest.

“There’s a lot of procedural hoops that we have to jump through to even have this be allowed use, although the city has been very helpful and supportive through this process.”

During the pandemic, Rooftop Cinema Club has successfully opened “pop-up” drive-ins, as a safe, socially-distanced form of public entertainment – in numerous American cities, many on under-utilized rooftop spaces.

The company’s pop-up Tampa venture, at Armature Works, closed after two months in late 2020.

Furst has lobbied to change the area’s zoning to I-MIX, for mixed use.

The drive-in, he said, would be in place for approximately one year. “I would happily have it longer, or for whatever reason it needed to go sooner .. it is what it is,” he said. “But we’re going through this Special Exception process, which has delayed the inevitable opening of the theater.”

For now, he added, he simply hopes to do something constructive with a vacant parcel of land. “I think they (vacant lots) create blight, and they obviously reduce connectivity,” he said. “And one of our main themes is enhancing connectivity down 22nd Street, through Grand Central and the Warehouse Arts District.

“So activating this site is of extreme importance to me, just to be a good community neighbor.”

Calls and emails to Rooftop Cinema Club headquarters were not immediately returned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Sylvia Rusche

    March 9, 2021at6:14 pm

    LOVE this idea :))

  2. Avatar

    JoAnn Mitchell

    March 10, 2021at2:45 pm

    I would love to see a drive in movie come back to St. Petersburg. What about the land where the Wagon Wheel flea market closed down?

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