A rendition of the proposed AMC site slated for the northeast corner of Westfield Hawthorn Mall in Vernon Hills It is part of a $50 million expansion to the shopping center. | Special to Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 3, 2013 2:00AM
VERNON HILLS — Westfield Hawthorn Mall is one vote away from getting its long-awaited AMC theater, plus a new Dave & Buster’s.
“This game changer is needed at this mall,” said John Genovese, Westfield’s senior vice president of development. “With the ability to buy things online, we have to appeal to a lifestyle and sell by using images and experiences.”
Genovese was one of nearly 20 corporate executives from Westfield, AMC and Dave & Buster’s who made presentations to the Vernon Hills planning and zoning commission.
Members of the commission agreed and approved the conceptual plans, with many saying they were enthusiastic about the projects. The group rejected only two measures: Westfield’s proposed 45-foot electronic sign and the use of advertisements that promote products not sold in Vernon Hills.
The AMC theater would have 12 screens and 1,200 total seats, including electric recliner chairs, an expanded concessions stand and an alcohol serving bar. While patrons can bring alcoholic drinks into the theater, the bar and lounge area itself is not accessible to the public without first purchasing a movie ticket.
Commissioners asked about the future of AMC Showplace Vernon Hills 8, which is located across from the mall about half a mile down Milwaukee Avenue.
“Our goal is to keep it open,” said Ron Herman, AMC vice president of properties.
“AMC is a growing company, not a shrinking one. At this point, we do believe the city and surrounding area can support two locations. It will need some upgrades, however.”
AMC Rivertree Court was located adjacent to the mall, on the other side of Milwaukee Avenue, until it closed in 2010. The facility was renovated to become Gordmans off-price store.
The new AMC complex would be a 44,000 square-foot addition to the mall. The Dave & Buster’s would be a 39,000- square-foot renovation of existing space on two levels — primarily the space GlowGolf is currently leasing.
Dave & Buster’s would have its own bar, dining area, bathrooms and as many as 200 electronic/arcade games. Representatives said Vernon Hills was targeted because of its balance of residential and commercial space.
The venue would be open from 11 a.m. to midnight Sundays through Thursdays, and from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Because of those operating hours, Dave & Buster’s also will have a non-mall entrance. It would conform to how Westfield plans to renovate its main entrances.
The mall also will get two new restaurants, filling the voids left by Ruby Tuesday and McCarthy’s Restaurant & Irish Pub.
During past meetings, Westfield said the mall’s renovations would cost $40 million to $50 million.
Genovese said Westfield would like to start construction by fall of this year, if the Vernon Hills Village Board approves the concepts during its Feb. 19 meeting. He said the mall will remain open during the work.