Although Kaibab Industries is still searching for a theater tenant for the proposed Sawmill Crossing Shopping Center on Main Street, Kaibab Vice President Gordon Whiting said his company plans to resume construction by spring.
Kaibab, the company building the shopping center, put the project on hold this summer when the cornerstone tenant for the project pulled out.
"We lost E&W Theaters in the last week of July," Whiting said. "We had worked with them 1 1/2 years. They were frustrated with the delays in the project and had another opportunity in Northern California."
Will Viner, president of E&W Theaters said the construction delays were just part of the reason he abandoned the project. He said he also was at odds with Kaibab over financial matters.
"The way (the deal) was all working at the beginning, it was working well for us, based on our schedule," Viner said. "But we also had a project planned for Northern California. Because of the delays (in Payson), we had to make a decision on which one we were going to pursue.
"There seemed to be no light at the end of the tunnel as far as the delays, so we decided to focus our attention on the California project."
Viner said Tuesday he understands the frustrations of Payson moviegoers, who have been without a local theater for more than a year, and said he's tried to help Whiting find a replacement theater operator.
The Town of Payson is considering buying a small parcel of Kaibab's property off Main Street to build off-street parking and a connector street between West Aero Drive and Main Street. Town officials have said they hope the additional parking lot will help the Sawmill Crossing project along.
"It's an indication of real commitment on the part of the town council to the Main Street redevelopment," Whiting said. Up 'till now, there's been a lot of talk, but not a lot of hard dollars committed toward that."
Whiting said he first thought construction of Sawmill Crossings would begin May 1. Then the construction start-up date got moved to Sept. 1.
"And now it's March or April," he said. "Back in May, we had seven letters of intent, but when we had to delay the project, those folks got disillusioned."
Whiting said once a decision has been made on the theater, there should be no problem recruiting tenants for the Main Street project.
According to plans for the theater, it will include stadium seating and four to six screens.