Postal Service likely to get top billing at Pikes Theater

November 19, 1990|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Evening Sun Staff

Hopes for a new cultural arts center or a restaurant in the closed Pikes Theatre now appear --ed, although Pikesville apparently has won the battle to have a new District Court building built there rather than in Owings Mills.

The Pikes, built in 1937 and a fixture in the 900 block of Reisterstown Road, appears likely to be leased to the Postal Service.

Attorney Charles Piven, representing the owners, told the county planning board last week he has a contract from the Post Office for the 6,700-square-foot building, which will be used for retail customer service. The current Pikesville Post Office near Old Court Road and Walker Avenue will continue to be used by mail carriers.

However, proponents of a cultural arts center in the old theater haven't given up their dream yet. The planning board approved a resolution asking the county Economic Development Commission to study whether the post office use wouldn't be a violation of the county master plan, which calls for a cultural arts center.

The catch is that the county already has appraised and examined the building, and Economic Development Commission Director Richard Story informed Piven by letter last July that county purchase and renovation of the building would be far too expensive to be feasible. However, Story said Friday that although a real estate appraisal of the building was done, a "cultural arts center feasibility study" has not been done.

If the county decides a second time not to buy the building, then the renovation permit already submitted for the postal conversion would be processed, said county planner Frank H. Fisher.

Nearby business owners in Pikesville's older business strip oppose the Post Office use for the building because their customers will lose the ability to park on the old theater's lot, which is now leased for public parking. Parking is at a premium in this crowded retail district.

The Pikesville Community Growth Corp., a local revitalization group, also favors the cultural arts center use, but hasn't the money to buy and renovate the theatre. These groups favor a restaurant if the cultural arts center is too expensive.

Piven reminded the planning board that although he sympathizes with the parking woes of nearby businesses, the theater owners also own the parking lot, and have a right to use it.

Last winter's dispute over where to build a new Northwest District Court building is also now resolved, and bids on a new building to be built in Pikesville are to be submitted to the state Department of General Services by Wednesday.

The new court is to come under construction by spring, said K.P. Dutch Heinemeyer, a state general services official. The bidders must find a location in Pikesville to put a one-story 35,000-square-foot brick building and must submit proposals covering either outright state purchase or lease-purchase options.

The state will examine the bids, negotiate what it feels would be the best deal and present that recommendation to both the General Assembly and the Board of Public Works during the 1991 legislative session, Heinemeyer said. If all goes well, the building should be under construction in March, he said.

The state is in a hurry to build a court to replace the rented quarters on Painters Mill Road in Owings Mills, where the lease is due to run out by the end of 1991. That building is owned by a partnership including Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg and Del. Richard Rynd, D-Balto. Co.

State Sen. Frank X. Kelly, D. Balto. Co., who represents the northern county, had sought to have the new court built in the same Owings Mills area where it is now located, perhaps on the grounds of nearby Rosewood State Hospital.

Pikesville legislators won that battle, and Heinemeyer said the court must now go in old Pikesville, where it is expected to help keep the older retail area viable.

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