ESSEX JUNCTION, Vt. (WCAX) Change is coming to the Essex Outlets, but it's not what was previously planned.
Initial ideas in 2016 to add apartments and retail space have given way to plans to add a restaurant and performance space at Essex Cinema.
"The goal here is to become a community-based center that will incorporate music, art, dining, shops," said Peter Edelman, a developer on the project.
Edelman wants to convert the largest theater in the state into a multiuse performance center. Don't worry, movies aren't going anywhere but they will be in a shared space that will include a restaurant.
"The connecting of people through music and food is what excites us and propels us in this project," said Eric Koval, who is calling his project the "Essex Experience."
Last summer, the plans were all about knocking down outlets and building commercial, retail and apartments.
"The reality and the economics of doing apartments really mandated to make it work I would have to go to a certain height, and that's not allowed under the town plan and zoning," said Koval.
Monday, the shopping center was 80 percent full. The plan is to fill the rest of the spaces with local, boutique-type shops.
"As much as anywhere in the United States, retail is in retreat," Edelman said.
The project will cost several million dollars. Edelman says using space that is already developed will appeal to locals and tourists.
"You have to change the environment and that really is what I am doing," he said.
The Essex Experience will accommodate up to 500 people; 400 seats and 100 spots for standing. That's what developers say differentiates them from the Higher Ground nightclub.
The first show will be May 16.
It's unclear what, if any, big names will perform.
"We are working on that," said Koval. "That's certainly the plan."
Shopping center representatives also announced they're converting to solar energy.
Developers say they are the first retail center in Vermont to run fully on renewable energy.