Comedian Yakov Smirnoff has proposed replacing his eponymous theater in Branson, MO, with a mixed-use development, named Yakov Towers, that would include a senior living community, according to local media reports.
Representatives of Smirnoff’s Love and Laughter LLC went before the town’s Planning Commission on Tuesday, seeking a variance to allow a 150-foot-tall building for the development; building height currently is limited to 75 feet. The commission recommended approval of the change, and the project will be discussed at future town meetings.
Preliminary plans submitted to the Planning Commission show a 15-story main building; the complex would have 220 independent living units, 120 assisted living units, 80 memory care units and a 120-room hotel. The proposed development also includes 42 townhomes and parking. Attorney Nicolas Grimwood, who is representing Smirnoff, told OzarkFirst.com that a small theater, which could host Smirnoff and other performers, also may be incorporated into the project.
Smirnoff emigrated to the United States from what was then the Soviet Union in the late 1970s. He became well-known for the catchphrase “What a country!” that punctuated jokes in which he compared life in the Soviet Union with life in the United States. After performing at his theater for two decades, he moved to California a few years ago and is working toward a Ph.D. in psychology at Pepperdine University in addition to performing, according to the Springfield News-Leader.
“His career has kind of taken him in a different direction in the last few years, but he just doesn’t want that property to sit there, underutilized,” Grimwood told television station KY3.
“One of the things he’s taken into consideration are the number of retirees who are locating themselves here in Branson,” Grimwood said. The town is known as a vacation destination featuring theaters and other entertainment.
The site of the proposed senior living community is close to medical facilities, which older adults would appreciate, Grimwood added.