City Board of Estimates OK’s $ to buy The Senator Theatre

One day after CHAP decided to rule in favor of placing severe restrictions upon most of the Senator Theatre’s interior spaces (even in the face of testimony exposing how such proposals have had negative affects on attempts to save the theatre), Baltimore City’s Board of Estimates approved the nearly $1 million needed to purchase the theatre’s mortgage note from 1st Mariner Bank.

Of course, the local media picked up on this (links below) and some have been prematurely stating Yet again) that the theatre is now saved. They did the same thing when the mayor’s office accepted the city’s Senator Strategy Group recommended buying the theatre & then reselling it (at a higher price than it could have gone if 1st Mariner’s auction had taken place).

City Comptroller Joan Pratt

City Comptroller Joan Pratt

Anyway, the motion passed, but not without a fight. City Comptroller, Joan Pratt calls the move a “bailout” and would rather loose the $600,000 invested in the theatre rather than see nearly $1 million spent to take ownership and then resell or lease it.

However, we think she is missing the point that the city has also invested millions in the Belvedere Square revitalization and business owners there, who call the theatre “a cherished landmark”, say they have already seen a drop in customers since the theatre has had to rely on internet advertising (their website, blogs & Facebook groups) to get word out about their “streamlined” programming aimed at keeping the theatre from going completely dark.

(Ed. To clarify, we agree with Comptroller Pratt on principle. We don’t believe the city should be in the business of owning the theatre either, however this auction scenario is much better because the starting bid won’t be “bargain basement” and we hope it will attract serious bidders who will… “Reimburse” the city for this outlay of cash.)

District 4 Councilman Bill Henry

“I know that it feels like a bailout but the bailout is not for Tom Kiefaber and it’s not for 1st Mariner.  If anything, the bailout is for the residents and the businesses in the York/Belvedere area.”

“Letting this theater sit there dark and not fulfilling its function as an economic anchor is going to continue to have really awful repercussions for that area.”

Current owner, Tom Kiefaber:

“It’s something very precious that’s been in my family for 70 years; will no longer be, but it’s really about The Senator and not me or my family.”

Want the big picture? Click the  “What’s Going On?” link, under our search box (top right).

STORY LINKS (Please keep in mind -The purchase has NOT been completed regardless of what local media states!)

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Government and/or non-profit owner/operators will only continue the Senator’s decline. Often they make the wrong decisions for the right reasons.

    The Senator should have been auctioned off years ago. The city, the AS Abell Foundation and even on-line donors have tried to save this theater. They didn’t save it. They prolonged the agony as the Senator dug itself deeper into debt. They enabled the theater to continue operating as an unintentional non-profit. The Senator needs to be saved from its self and other’s good intentions.

    Now City Councilman Bill Henry has heard of several potential developers wanting to buy the theater. Henry doesn’t believe legislation limiting interior changes to the theater will deter good bidders. Then he turns around and says a developer could sit on the property and leave it vacant. And that would detract from Belvedere Square.

    James Ward’s shopping center failed in the 90’s, not because of the Senator theater, but because it wasn’t large enough to sustain its self. I haven’t seen Belvedere Square merchants close up their shops because the theater failed. Am I missing something?


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