SENATOR Theatre Closes Tonight for Renovations

Senator Theatre marquee - 2012, Apr 3: some lights finally relit

Senator Theatre, April 2012

According to a post on the Senator’s official Facebook page the theatre will close tonight (Thursday, April 26, 2012) after the scheduled viewings of The Hunger Games. It’s said the closing is required to move forward with their renovation plans that will add three screening auditoriums to the north and south sides of the original historic building as well as a wine bar.

Those interested in details should visit the theatre’s commerical site to see the city approved floorplan and two thumbnail renderings of the completed project via the “Renovations Blog” link: http://www.thesenatortheatre.com

You can also read the most recent article about the plans: http://towson.patch.com/articles/senator-theatre-operators-improvements-coming-soon

And an “Update From The Senator Theatre” Facebook Note also provides some details:
https://www.facebook.com/notes/the-senator-theatre/update-from-the-senator-theatre/379632822067390

According to an administrator’s comment posted on their Facebook page, the project is expected to take 6-9 months to complete.

Update: Just after posting the following article was brought to our attention, in which The Senator is described as “a very sad theatre” by renter/operator James “Buzz” Cusack and “a complicated deal with many layers of financing” by M.J. “Jay” Brodie of the BDC.
http://www.bizjournals.com/baltimore/blog/real-estate/2012/04/senator-theatre-to-close-for-renovations.html

Baltimore’s Senator Theatre – One Year Later

It has been more than a full year since Mr. Cusack and his daughter became the operating tenants to the city owned, internationally recognized Senator Theatre. Many Baltimoreans had high expectations that the operators of The Charles Theatre would rejuvenate and revitalize The Senator given the plans presented. However, lately I’ve been hearing from residents and patrons that the state of the theatre in the meantime has deteriorated.

Having not been in the Belvedere Square area recently I made it a point to drive past The Senator this Thursday night. I was literally stunned by just how badly the theatre looked from the street. In my 27 years as a patron of The Senator .

While I cannot call myself a close friend of longtime Senator Theatre exhibition expert and film preservationist legend William (“Bill”) Hewitt, I’ve enjoyed countless films he presented over the years. I was even more fortunate have briefly worked with him (as did my family and several others during 18th month all-volunteer period). Given this and what I’ve learned of the man from others, it’s obvious he was the consummate film exhibition professional, and, a tremendous contributor to The Senator’s fame. I am therefore comfortable stating that he would NEVER have accepted the “black-eyed” appearance The Senator Theatre now conveys in the Belvedere Square community.

Moreover, my heart and jaw dropped as I realized that this man’s “memorial”, placed on the iconic marquee, occupied the dark center section.

A recent article by Adam Bednar writes:

[Mr. Cusack] also said there’s no current maintenance being done on the building because they are waiting for state funds and city approval to begin a rehab of the structure.

If this has been the approach by the tenants toward maintenance, as it seems, what should we expect if they are not awarded government funding they expect to receive?

The citizen-owners of this Baltimore landmark, historic building advocates, film historians and preservationists alike should not only take note of the situation, but make their opinions and voices heard – via online petition, yes, but also at Baltimore City Hall. For what does it say of us if we allow this last remaining, operational, historic Baltimore movie house to be neglected – In a state in which The Senator Theatre and The League of Historic American Theatres calls home?

-Tom Harris

SENATOR Theatre to reopen Oct 15 with 1st run films, starting with action/comedy “RED”

At a public meeting last night, Buzz and Kathleen Cusack announced that the theatre will indeed reopen to the public next Friday (October 15, 2010) as a first run movie house. The first film to screen will be “Red“, starring Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Mary Louise-Parker, Helen Mirren and others.

Showtimes were not announced, but can be expected to be listed on the new Senator website (http://thesenatortheatre.com) when it launches, as early as 5pm today. Ticket prices announced were $7.50 for matinees (shows starting before 6pm) and $9 for shows beginning after 6pm.

Senator Theatre outer lobby original paneling

Outer lobby paneling

In regard to renovations, the 100 or so attendees got a first-hand look (and touch) of the recently uncovered original wood paneling in the outer lobby and the likewise inner lobby ceiling mural. Sadly, the latter is covered with so many globs of adhesive (used to anchor the suspensions for the acoustic tiles that were recently removed) that it is intimated to be beyond repair.

The Cusacks, who operate The Charles Theater, also displayed plans for expected additions of a full service restaurant (on the north side, replacing  what was an addition that housed a dry-cleaners), crepe shop and a second auditorium to be attached to the south side of the theatre, along Rosebank Avenue. Current designs for the restaurant, it was noted, would find it’s facade extending approximately 8 feet toward York Road. This would mean that the sidewalk blocks commemorating Casino Royale and the premiere of Ladder 49 would be lost. However, steps are being taken to see if they can be recreated in another location. Also noted were changes to the mens & ladies lounges and restrooms to make them ADA compliant.

It was stressed that the visuals were concepts and that plans are still in the design & development phase and pending approval from the City’s CHAP as well as state and federal officials (to qualify for historic tax credits). Construction, once begun, is expected to take 9 months to 1 year to complete. However, the Cusacks state they expect to keep The Senator open during much of that time, only to close when necessary – for instance – when replacing the main auditorium seats with new, larger models.

For those who could not attend, it was said that the slideshow would be available on the new Senator website.

Meeting media coverage:

Cusacks to Announce Oct 15 Reopening for SENATOR Theatre

According to Michael Sragow, “Buzz” and daughter Kathleen Cusack will announce that Friday, October 15th as the day The Senator Theatre will reopen as a first run movie house.

The announcement is to come as part of a public “Progress Meeting”, as stated in the theatre’s marquee, slated to begin at 6:30pm. It’s also expected they will name the feature that returning Senator projectionist Bill Hewitt will exhibit to hail the reopening.

“We welcome anyone with any interest in the theater to join in our excitement as we prepare to reopen.”
-Kathleen Cusack

You can read Mr. Sragow’s full post here.

Kathleen Cusack: Meeting at The Senator on 10/7

According to a Citybizlist Baltimore posting, a communication to the BDC and some community association leaders from Kathleen Cusack has announced a meeting to be held at The Senator Theater on October 7 at 6:30pm: http://baltimorerealestate.citybizlist.com/YourCityBizNews/detail.aspx?id=94718

SENATOR Theatre: rotunda restoration progress photos

From Eddie Leon (CHAP):

Here are the latest photos from the Rotunda restoration.  Original doorway detailing re-discovered.

[Click each for full size version]

Our thanks to Mr. Leon for updating us on the progress!

SENATOR Theatre RFP: CHAP Hearing Summary Letter

Below are copies of the letter sent to Alex Castro (lead architect for Buzz and Kathleen Cusack’s Senator Theatre, LLC project) officially announcing the results of the August 10 CHAP hearing. Each of the attendees to the hearing was to receive this this document by mail.

Excerpts:

The Commissioners considered the application materials you submitted, the presentation you gave at the hearing, the staff presentation, the staff report and other testimony presented at the hearing…

The Commission then made motion and determined the following:

  • Moved to approve the staff recommendation for rehabilitation of the interior and exterior with careful attention to be given by experts in the field to the evaluation of systems and structure, with study of the storage space and the addition to the front, paying particular attention to the interior features specifically landmarked, as well as the (commemorative movie) sidewalks and the men’s lounge.
  • Approval of the new addition concept and interior concept alterations as submitted with the next phase concept designs to be submitted for full commission review…

Click on each to view full size:

SENATOR Theatre RFP: Lease Agreement @ Board of Estimates tomorrow!

FOTS has learned that the Board of Estimates meeting tomorrow (August 25, 2010) at 9AM will include a vote on the proposed lease for The Senator Theatre. What follows is an excerpt from the meeting agenda (pages 94 & 95):

BOARD OF ESTIMATES 8/25/10

Baltimore Development Corporation – Triple-Net Lease Agreement
for the Senator Theatre

ACTION REQUESTED OF B/E:
The Board is requested to approve a triple-net lease, with the Senator Theatre, LLC for the City-owned Senator Theatre, located at 5904-06 York Road. The period of the lease agreement is effective upon the date of the lease and will terminate on the lesser of 43 years from the lease date or 40 years from the date of the granting of a Certificate of Completion.
The Board is further requested to authorize the Commissioner of the Department of Housing and Community Development to execute any ancillary documents, letters or certificates that do not change the substance of the terms of the documents, subject to review and approval by the Law Department.

AMOUNT OF MONEY AND SOURCE:
$1.00 – Annual Rent
(The first five years are payable at the execution of the agreement).

BACKGROUND/EXPLANATION:
In May 2002, the Board approved a $600,000.00 loan guarantee for the Senator Theatre. With the threat of foreclosure imminent and facing the loss of its $600,000.00 guarantee, the City purchased the Promissory Note and Mortgage on the Senator Theatre from the First Mariner Bank in May 2009. The City’s acquisition and settlement costs were $965,757.00.

Through a Request for Proposals (RFP) issued September 21, 2009, the City of Baltimore Development Corporation (BDC), on behalf of the City of Baltimore, offered for sale or rent the Senator Theatre for use as a movie theatre and/or performing arts venue. The BDC received four proposals in response to the RFP. After a review and analysis process, which included a public meeting and several meetings of an Advisory Panel (comprised of business, residential and theatre advocacy groups, and City staff), the panel recommended that the City enter into an Exclusive Negotiating Privilege agreement with the Senator Theatre, LLC.

94
AGENDA

BOARD OF ESTIMATES 8/25/10
BDC – cont’d

The Senator Theatre, LLC is comprised of Mr. James Cusack and his daughter Ms. Kathleen Cusack, the owners of the Charles Theatre. Their proposal is to use the building for a single screen theatre and two food-service establishments, with the possible addition of a second screen.

The proposed capital improvements include replacement of seats, carpet, wall coverings, and curtains, and painting of ceilings and walls in the auditorium; repairs to the exterior; new or upgraded building systems including electrical service, sprinklers, boiler and roof; and construction of a restaurant on the north side of the building.

The total cost of the project is estimated to be approximately $1,650,000.00. The Senator Theatre, LLC is contributing $400,000.00 in equity; applying for $450,000.00 in Federal and State Historic Tax Credits; applying for a $100,000.00 in State Community Legacy Grant funds; and has requested a $700,000.00 loan from the Mayor and City Council. The deadline to apply for Historic Tax Credits is August 31, 2010 and in order for the Senator Theatre, LLC to qualify for these tax credits, the term of the lease must be extendable for a total of 40 years, and the lease must be executed by August 31, 2010.

The BDC conducted a City Return Analysis on the project using the total City investment of $1,665,757.00, which includes $965,757.00 in acquisition and settlement costs and the requested loan. The Net Present Value (NPV) is calculated for a 20-year period using a 6% discount rate. Based on this analysis, the projected returns to the City are revenues of $473,403.00 NPV over 20 years. The City’s 20-year Internal Rate of Return is projected to be 9%.

MBE/WBE PARTICIPATION:
The developer has signed the Commitment to Comply with the Minority and Women’s Business Enterprise Program of the City of Baltimore.
(The triple-net lease agreement has been approved by the Law Department as to form and legal sufficiency.)

95

SENATOR Theatre: Rotunda Wall Exploratory

News from Eddie Leon (City Planner at CHAP) regarding some work currently being done at The Senator:

SENATOR Lobby b&wI was there earlier today myself to review the exploratory work that the Cusack’s are undertaking. Simply, the wall paper on the lower band has been removed in a section of the Rotunda as part of the exploratory/evaluation process. The “fish tank”/display case on the men’s room side has been removed for the time being to examine the condition of the original wood veneer walls. This exploration has also revealed one of the original poster niche’s that existed on that side. I’m very happy to report that it appears that a majority of the wood veneer is in good shape and repairable where worn down.

Senator Theatre RFP: Kiefaber defies hush clause. Joins FOTS in “BDC is rife with fraud & collusion”

BDC

Fraud, Collusion, Deceit

Former Senator Theatre owner Tom Kiefaber defies City Hall’s hush clause

Joins Friends of The Senator to declare BDC is rife with fraud and collusion

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Baltimore, MD
July 16th, 2010

Friends of The Senator (FOTS) announced today that the 2100+ member advocacy group has denounced the Baltimore Development Corporation’s (BDC) manipulation of The Senator Theatre’s acquisition at auction on behalf of the City, and its subsequent RFP plan for the Senator Theatre, as a corrupt process rife throughout with collusion, fraud, and deceit.

The advocacy group has repeatedly implored Mayor Rawlings-Blake to investigate the allegations, based on the results of the FOTS investigative research, provided to her and her staff…

Complete text at http://www.thepeoplestheatre.us/news.html