As officials with Schulman’s Movie Bowl Grille prepare for work on its new Sherman complex, the entertainment chain is no longer moving forward with plans for a Denison location.
In September of last year, Schulman’s announced plans to move to the Texoma region with a new entertainment complex along Crawford Street and U.S. Highway 75. However, amid competition from a rival company and a dispute over city incentives, the developer quickly to shifted its focus to developing a Sherman location on FM 1417. Despite this, owner Mark Schulman had maintained that the plan was to ultimately build in Denison as well, until Thursday’s groundbreaking ceremony for the Sherman location.
“The Denison development, the land that we had in Denison, we are not working on that site right now,” Schulman said. “So we are looking at other options, working with Allen Wheeler and figuring out what those options could come to fruition.”
Wheeler is a land investor from Durant who purchased land along Hwy. 75 more than 30 years ago ahead of development and investment. Recently, Wheeler was involved with the sale of land and development of Freddy’s Frozen Custard, just south of the Denison Walmart.
Wheeler said he is close friends with Schulman, who had put more than 24 acres of land at the intersection of Crawford and Hwy. 75 under contract for the Denison project nearly a year ago, but that contract has since expired.
“He worked hard for a year to get Denison to work with him but it just didn’t work,” Wheeler said.
Denison City Manager Jud Rex said he has not spoken with or heard anything from Schulman since the November meeting. With news of the apparent end of the Denison development, Rex said he was not surprised.
“That kind of was what we expected would be the case,” he said.
Despite the project not panning out, Rex said he is still optimistic that the location has a future. While a movie theater might not be in that future, Rex said the site is still prime real estate for retail and restaurant development.
On Thursday, Schulman said he wasn’t certain what the future of the Crawford location was, and directed questions to Wheeler.
“He owns the land and he has the ability to do with the land whatever he wants to do,” Schulman said. “We’re going to focus on this (Sherman) project right now, then look north and see what options and what opportunities that can come together with what we were planning up there to do.”
Likewise, Wheeler said he was willing to work with Schulman on future developments, but suggested a different location.
“He and I may do something in the future, but it won’t be in Denison,” he said.
Despite not working with Schulman on the Crawford property, Wheeler said he has a buyer lined up, but he could not give details at this time. He said news of the purchase could be coming within days, describing the deal as “bigger” than the Schulman development.
The talk of a new entertainment complex in Denison first became public when Schulman’s announced plans to build a Movie Bowl Grille featuring bowling and an eight-screen movie theater. Only two days later, the city and representatives for Norman-based HeyDay Entertainment announced the development of a separate entertainment complex in Denison’s Gateway Village.
As part of the announcement, officials with the city and Denison Development Alliance said the HeyDay project would receive two incentive packages totaling about $1 million. At the time, officials confirmed they had been in talks with both developers regarding incentives, with talks with Schulman’s ending the same day the Crawford development was announced. At the time, Schulman said he was planning to move forward with the project without funding or assistance from the city.
About one month later, the city of Sherman approved an agreement with Schulman’s 58 Aggie Development LLC for the development of an entertainment complex. It was later confirmed that this would be a separate Movie Bowl Grille location in Sherman.
Amid questions about the future of the Denison development, Schulman said there were still plans to move forward. However, he said the Sherman location and a retail component of the Denison project would take priority.
The questions regarding the future of the site ultimately influenced a decision by the Denison Planning and Zoning Commission, who voted to deny a request to rezone the Schulman’s site. Officials cited a belief that the project would not move forward and a lack of Schulman’s presence during the meeting as reason for the denial.
During a subsequent Denison City Council meeting in November, Schulman said the retail component would cover more than 15 acres and include a grocery store, three other retail locations and connected pad development sites along the highway. Denison officials expressed concern at the apparent mixed signals that Schulman was sending.
“There has been a lot of confusion in the market, and sometimes you get these development communities where the confusion is created on purpose,” then-Mayor Jared Johnson said. “I am not saying that is what’s been going on here, but there has been a lot of confusion with this entertainment venue.”
Likewise, current Denison Mayor Janet Gott said she had heard a rumor there was a non-compete clause as a part of the agreement with Sherman. She asked whether this would prohibit Schulman from moving forward with the development.
In response, Schulman neither confirmed nor denied that there was a clause in the Sherman agreement but noted that there are options available to him as the two developments are being pursued by two separate entities. In the case of Denison, Schulman presented plans featuring the name “Crawford 75 Partners.” However, other pages in the same packet still bore the name “58 Aggie Development LLC.”
Herald Democrat Managing Editor William C. Wadsack contributed to this article.