REGAL GAVE THE GREEN LIGHT  to a $3-million renovation for Downtown Sarasota’s largest movie theater, setting in motion a major remaking of most of a Main Street city block. Starting this fall, Regal will convert its longstanding 20-theater multiplex into a luxury venue with 11 screens, leather reclining seats and an ultramodern bar and lounge. The move will be both an upgrade in environment and a reduction in footprint, clearing out almost an acre of BBC Main Plaza. “We now have our anchor tenant not only committing to stay in Sarasota but to upgrade the facility to give Sarasota tenants an ultramodern theatre experience,” says David Chessler, a developer who co-owns the plaza along with Jesse Biter and Eric Baird. The BBC Main team says the Regal boost will be the first step in revitalizing east Downtown. While the Regal has always been the chief attractor of visitors to sleepy east Main, a redevelopment of the whole plaza could change the landscape, Biter says. A local restaurateur will soon announce plans for the old Applebee’s space neighboring the theater, and they plan to bring another culinary tenant into the former WingHouse. “We are going to fill Main Street and the lower floor of the mall with local market-type businesses,” Biter says, “but only those that draw their own crowd.”

Credit: Developers Jesse Biter, Eric Baird and David Chessler (not shown). Special thanks to Jesse White and Sarasota Architectural Salvage for props and staging. Photo by Wyatt Kostygan.