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Brighton DDA Director Speaks on City's Future

DDA Director Matt Modrack said a downtown theater is perhaps the most significant project in the works.

Everywhere you look downtown, there is evidence that the City of Brighton is thriving, with the recent additions of The Pound! Bar & Grill and Bink & Babs Boutique to upcoming projects like the Becker Brewery and expansion of St. Paul's Episcopal Church.

Brighton Community Development and Downtown Development Authority (DDA) Director Matt Modrack said he believes part of the reason for downtown Brighton's success is that it has become a dining destination, which has in turn spurred the addition of retail businesses, "the gold standard of a downtown," he said.

Modrack spoke during a town hall series meeting sponsored by the Brighton Chamber of Commerce on Thursday.

"I think the Becker Brewery project is one of the real indicators of how solid our downtown is," Modrack said. "Only the very nicest downtowns get their most historic building redeveloped and reused in a historically sensitive way for a use that is so desirable - a brew pub no less."

However, the most significant upcoming project is adding a theater to downtown, according to Modrack.

"We don't have a theater, and I subscribe to the idea that you can't have a great downtown without one," he said.

In fact, Brighton used to have a theater in the early 1900s called the Rialto. The DDA secured the property next to Ciao Amici's with a lease with a purchase option to buy for about 15 percent of real value of property.

"The value between the 15 percent that we have to pay when we buy it - and we will buy it - and the real market value, which is probably half a million, is the value of the naming rights, Modrack said. "So I gave them the naming rights of the Fifth Third Theater."

The new theater location happens to be about two doors down from the former Rialto location - a fact Modrack said he is very happy about.

"It's significant because we've emerged as a dining and entertainment destination, but we'd like to shore up the entertainment part," Modrack said. "I anticipate when it's done and running, and we have a long way to go, but when it's operational, its the activity that's important. When it's operational, I expect a venue that will have shows and events maybe 50 times a year - once a week. That's significant. And my assessment based on the PIX Theater in Lapeer."

Modrack said the Fifth Third Theater is in no way supposed to compete with the Brighton Center for Performing Arts. He expects planning, architectural work and financing to take up to two years.

In addition to Modrack's talk of future projects, Ashley Israel, the developer and owner of the Brighton Mall, spoke of the new additions his property would be bringing to the city. Bed, Bath and Beyond's new space will be turned over to them Friday. Israel said he expects them to open in early spring 2013. Aldi is also a new addition to the mall and is slated to open early 2013 as well.

The new stores are made possible thanks to Israel's $5 million self financed redevelopment of the mall.

"This was the only way forward and it's the level of commitment my partner and I are making to the shopping center," he said. "The interest in the redevelopment has been incredible. We've got approximately 120 square feet of vacant space. Right now, every square foot has already signed up or essentially spoken for, in negotiations or the leases are out. You can see if you've gone out there the extent to which we've made progress."

Israel said that while he cannot give out any names until leases are officially signed, that all of them are national, not poached from Brighton's downtown,  and very well known.

For more information on the Brighton Chamber of Commerce's planned town hall series, visit them online at www.brightoncoc.org.

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