PhillyDeals: Upscale movie complex proposed a second time for Chester County

An artist rendering of the proposed Cobb Theater, set to open in Oct. 2015 at Uptown Worthington in Chester County.
An artist rendering of the proposed Cobb Theater, set to open in Oct. 2015 at Uptown Worthington in Chester County. (O'Neill Properties Group)
Posted: May 24, 2014

Developer Brian O'Neill's King of Prussia-based O'Neill Properties Group L.P. plans what he calls "the largest luxury movie theater built in the United States in the past 30 years."

With wine bar, 60-foot lobby and other fancy touches, the theater is bound for Uptown Worthington, his long-running development project at the former National Rolling Mills site in East Whiteland Township, Chester County.

The complex would be run by Atlanta-based Cobb Theaters and include a ground-floor Cobb VIP movie theater, plus an upstairs Cobb CineBistro theater-restaurant, totaling 85,000 square feet.

Independents such as family-owned Cobb and Penn Ketchum's Penn Cinemas, which has sites in Ephrata and Wilmington, are competing with the proliferation of handheld and cable-based media by offering a bit more glamour and a wider range of consumables than the familiar mall and urban multiplexes.

O'Neill has tried this before. It's been seven years since the developer announced a 92,000-square-foot Muvico theater and dinner complex at Uptown Worthington. That plan blew away in the real estate crash.

The theater will join a busy Wegmans grocery, Target discount store, 252 apartments under construction, and other tenants on the site, a short drive from the Vanguard Group and Great Valley Corporate Center office complexes near the highway web at the heart of Pennsylvania's wealthiest county - by per capita and household income.

O'Neill hasn't returned calls about Rockford Falls, his aborted Wilmington project at the former Bancroft Mills, a haunting complex that spreads like an abandoned mini-Manayunk above the rocky Brandywine. Rockford is being offered for sale to cover $14.8 million in unpaid loans to lenders led by HSBC Bank, at a June 10 auction by Jones Lang LaSalle, the brokerage's Douglas Rodio told me.

O'Neill once proposed 1,200 living units for Rockford Falls. Wilmington officials still hope for tax ratables, though some of the mills' upscale neighbors want the steep 21-acre complex, reachable only by narrow lanes or a Brandywine footbridge, to be purchased for a park.

Faster, faster

Urban Outfitters Inc., the South Philadelphia-based women's retail group, has cut its online delivery time below four days - from six last year - since opening its new "fulfillment center" in Gap, Lancaster County. StellaService, a three-year-old New York firm that tracks how Internet retailers deliver the stuff they sell, is the source.

StellaService says its latest sampling shows Urban Outfitters delivered faster than online-retail industry leader, on average, during April.

StellaService was founded by Bucknell University roommates Jordy Leiser and John Ernsberger, with support from founder Marc Lore, according to Ty McMahan, director of content for StellaService. Lore has been a mentor to fellow Bucknell entrepreneurs since he sold his business to Amazon for more than $500 million in 2010.

StellaService offers an online extension of an old practice: mystery shopping. The firm says it has hundreds of delivery testers, audited by KPMG, helping clients such as Target figure out how fast Sears or are moving product, as well as tracing new software orders and warehouse staffing.

Retailers need independent data to check their own performance vs. their rivals. This comes from Tony Bucci, cofounder at South Philadelphia-based motorcycle-gear marketer RevZilla. StellaService helps RevZilla with tough-to-measure customer, warranty and shipping data. There are many new metrics to track, Bucci said, in the "experience economy."



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