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Catching dinner and a movie without having to travel to Provo or Salt Lake City is at the heart of a plan to revitalize sagging downtown Pleasant Grove.

Construction of a $1.5 million eight-screen movie theater will anchor the Water Gardens, a 15-acre project located where Center Street meets State Street. The complex also will feature four restaurants set between streams, waterfalls and ponds, hence Water Gardens."It will be unlike anything in the state of Utah," said developer Jerry Smith. "People from Salt Lake Valley will come down to see it because it will be such a novelty."

Usually, it's the other way around for many northern Utah County residents who lament having to drive to Sandy or Provo/-Orem to enjoy a nice dinner or a movie. There's a glaring lack of fine restaurants and first-run movie theaters in the rapidly growing area.

Smith, a longtime Pleasant Grove resident, sort of stumbled into the project.

"It's a dumb story. It really is," he said.

Smith wanted to buy five acres along State Street to build a storage facility. But because the city considers the property primo retail property, it turned down Smith's rezoning request. Furthermore, the farmer who owned the land didn't want to sell it in chunks. Smith ended up buying 60 acres and then set off in search of a project.

Out of what he calls a "sense of civic pride" or "maybe I got a case of dollar signs," Smith settled on the movie complex-restaurants idea. Plans for nature trails and paths running along side streams and around fish-filled ponds will set it apart from similar developments.

The adjoining 45 acres Smith bought will be subdivided for 200 homes.

"This is the concept we came up with a year and a half ago," he said.

The theater is scheduled to begin construction this spring and be open in the fall. West States, one of the largest movie distributors in the West, has agreed to provide films for the theater, Smith said. The company owns 50 theaters and books movies for 50 more.

Kevin Long, Pleasant Grove economic development director, said the Water Gardens is close to signing two nice restaurants. Neither he nor Smith would reveal details about the restaurants. Smith said the restaurants could be open as early as next year.

City officials welcome the project and are expected to announce plans for at least two other major developments in the near future. Pleasant Grove is also considering three redevelopment districts to bolster downtown and broaden the city's tax base.

"Many communities turn their backs on downtown. We are not going to do that," said Mayor Lloyd Ash. "Although we are working to develop other areas, we are committed to improving our core area."