A project to renovate the movie complex formerly known as the Magic Johnson Theaters as well as the adjacent Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza (BHCP) is currently underway, and is expected to be complete by the end of the year. Because the theater’s operators, Loews and AMC, chose to pull out and let their lease run out last month, BHCP took over the venue’s operation.

The project plan, created by a collaborative effort between by Capri Urban Investors, Omniplan and RAW International, calls for the addition of new state-of-the-art movie theaters and several restaurants to the existing mall.

Capri Urban Investors, the mall’s owner, will transform the current theaters into a modern multiplex featuring stadium seating, digital technology, and 3-D screens.

“The theater is near and dear to my heart,” said Ken Lombard, partner and president of Capri Urban Investors LLC. “There was a commitment made to the people of the community almost 20 years ago that we would make (this) one of the top movie theaters in the nation. The theater was in need of a serious upgrade. There was lack of stadium seating, lack of 3-D theaters, and no digital screens.”

As part of the upgrade, a new operator will run the theater, said Lombard, who added that Capri plans to announce the new entity within the month.

“We are thrilled to be bringing in a new theater operator at Baldwin Hill Crenshaw Plaza,” Lombard said. “We are currently finalizing a new contract with an operator that truly understands Los Angeles, the urban marketplace, and has an absolute commitment to delivering the best movie experience you’ll find anywhere. Transforming the mall is about giving shoppers more choices and better amenities, and having a state-of-the-art multiplex is an important step in that direction.”

During the renovation process the theater is going to be closed, explained Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza representative Darren Dickerson, because leaving it open would only extend the renovation process. The facility had been losing money and customers to other Southland theaters, because those venues had elements lacking at the Magic Johnson Theaters (i.e., stadium seating, 3-D and digital screens). “We looked at every option available (as far as interim theater locations were concerned),” Dickerson said. “It did not seem feasible to use another facility and spend additional money, while already spending money on the renovation process. We are confident that our customers, as well as new ones, will come back just out of curiosity to experience a new, state-of-the-art theater.”

Renovation was a requirement, if the theater was to compete with other theater complexes throughout the city which have the amenities that the BHCP theater lacked. Additionally, because many of the summer and Christmas holiday season movies will be 3-D and digital, the former Magic Johnson Theaters would not have been able to run those movies in its complex, thus losing a huge percentage of the movie-going public.

The target date for the renovation completion is December of this year. BHCP representatives also stressed that all theater employees were relocated to other AMC theaters and no jobs were lost. Lombard said it has not been determined whether the movie complex will remain named the Magic Johnson Theaters. “The name will not be used unless used as a business decision,” the Capri Urban Investors partner and president said. Additionally, the use of the name would entail licensing fees and negotiations.

Capri purchased the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza in 2006 and has made substantial investments in the property. The current mall and theater renovation is the most important investment in the property in more than 25 years.

“Our decision to move forward with this level of investment demonstrates our continued confidence in Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza and the purchasing power of this important Los Angeles community,” said Quintin E. Primo III, chairman and CEO of Capri Capital Partners LLC, the investment manager of Capri Urban Investors.

“We are committed to securing the future of this incredible asset in Los Angeles and moving quickly to make these substantial improvements to Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza,” Primo said. “For that reason, we have called on real estate expert and long-time Angeleno Ken Lombard to strengthen the capabilities of our existing L.A.-based team. I am confident that Ken’s on-the-ground expertise will help expedite not just the initial investment program, but the large entitlement effort as well.”

Before joining Capri, Lombard served as president of Starbucks Entertainment as well as president of Johnson Development Corporation, the firm he started with former Los Angeles Lakers star Earvin “Magic” Johnson. It was in his position with Johnson Development that Lomdard established many successful retail partnerships with organizations across the United States, such as with Sony Pictures Entertainment to create the Magic Johnson Theaters chain.

Lombard has been a key, steady influence in bringing several new retailers to the Crenshaw District including TGI Friday’s, and Starbucks.

The Capri team, according to CEO Primo, envisions a thorough transformation of the plaza, including a new residential neighborhood, a hotel and commercial office building situated inside of tree-lined sidewalks, all conveniently linked to the proposed Metro Rail public transit center on Crenshaw Boulevard.