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Development plans revealed for project near Ruskin drive-in theater

Ruskin Drive in theater
Posted at 10:08 PM, Dec 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-15 23:17:59-05

RUSKIN, Fla — For decades, the Freiwalds have kept the magic of outdoor moviegoing alive in Ruskin.

"It'll be 70 years old this coming April and I'll be 89 that same day. (laughs)," said John Freiwald.

And they say nostalgia is largely what keeps people coming in.

"It's just ambiance. The moon's out. I see a lot of parents with their camera stars and the sky and stuff," said Freiwald.

But they say the true secret to survival is keeping out one thing.

"Ambient light."

They say too much outside light, ruins the experience.

And it's why they planted so many trees around the property to try to block it out.

And it's also why they were initially concerned to hear that a single-family housing development would be built along their eastern border.

ABC Action News spoke with the Senior Vice President of Planning for Waldrop Engineering, the development's planning team, to learn more about the project.

The first thing we talked about, were those light-blocking trees that run between the two properties.

"We looked at how we could maintain the existing vegetation along the shared property line," said Alexis Crespo.

Crespo says those trees aren't going anywhere.

In fact, to help maintain noise and light levels on both sides of those trees, the developers say they won't be building any homes near that border.

"We understand that they're very concerned about noise and potential light coming from the house, and likewise we would find it may be difficult to sell homes next to something as noisy as a drive-in theater can be," said Waldrop.

It's news that's music to the ears of the Freiwalds who hope to keep the theater experience going for as long as possible.

"[I'm] a lot more optimistic than I was two months ago," said John Freiwald.

The project is still in the beginning stages and it has to go through several approval processes at the county level, before construction can begin.

The development will go before the Hillsborough County Zoning Board for review on January 18.