Merchants’ Square stores coming down to make way for Flix Brewhouse

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Carmel’s Merchants’ Square shopping center will be getting a mini makeover thanks to coming attraction Flix Brewhouse.

As IBJ reported in August, the Texas-based company plans to open a combination movie theater-microbrewery next year in the troubled shopping center at 116th Street and Keystone Parkway.

Flix is slated to occupy almost 40,000 square feet in space that used to house a Hobby Lobby store, offering seating for about 1,000.

But there’s not enough parking at Merchants’ Square to meet city requirements, so landlord Ramco-Gershenson Inc. is seeking a zoning variance to allow fewer spaces.

As-is, the 359,000-square-foot shopping center should have 1,960 spaces based on its mix of retail and restaurant tenants; it’s almost 500 spaces short. The requirements increase with the addition of a theater.

Michigan-based Ramco-Gershenson plans to add 61 spaces by demolishing a vacant Old Navy store—now occupied by short-term tenant Halloween City—along with a small retail space next door and about 10,000 square feet of the Hobby Lobby space.

Even after the changes, the center will be about 600 spaces short.

Parking has not been an issue at Merchants’ Square, given abundant vacancies in recent years. Built in 1970 as a Target-anchored, enclosed mall, it was redeveloped into an open-air center in the mid-1990s.

Flix should be a welcome addition when it opens next year. Plans call for eight screens, seat-side dining and an on-site microbrewery. The lobby/bar will be open to the public, no movie tickets required.

In its application for the variance, Ramco-Gershenson said that Flix conducted “extensive analysis,” and expects about 711 customers during its busiest period—from 6  p.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturdays—and shouldn’t need more than 325 parking spaces to accommodate them. (The city’s zoning ordinance would require 500 spots.) And Flix is willing to offer valet parking if things get tight.

“We believe the new site plan will provide sufficient parking” for Flix and the existing retail shop,” project manager Ross S. Gallentine wrote. “We are very excited about the redevelopment and what it would mean for Merchants’ Square, the city of Carmel and the entire community.”

Carmel’s Board of Zoning Appeals is scheduled to consider the request at its Oct. 29 meeting.

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