Arts foundation weighs razing Pikes Theater

October 09, 1991|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Baltimore County Bureau of The Sun

The Pikes Theater, the focus of discussion about an arts center seen as a key to Pikesville's redevelopment, may be torn down instead.

A 400-seat theater would be built on the site, the president of an arts group overseeing plans for a new theater in Pikesville said yesterday.

But the group, the Pikesville Cultural Arts Foundation Inc., has not decided whether to build a theater or restore the existing one.

One of two consultants the foundation retained found very little sentiment or reason for saving the 54-year-old art deco structure in the 900 block of Reisterstown Road and is leaning toward replacing it.

"The conclusion seems to be in favor of a new structure. It's not a special building," said Shari Coale, director of business development for Columbia Design Collective Inc., an architectural, planning and interior design firm hired as consultant along with the Roger Morgan Studio of New York City.

Howard J. Needle, president of the foundation, said the group has yet to decide whether to tear the theater down and replace it or expand it from 200 to 400 seats.

"We're far from making a decision on that," he said.

Ms. Coale said she found few Pikesville residents, merchants or commuters interested in saving the building.

"I talked to everyone from waitresses to real estate appraisers," she said. "I didn't find it."

She said the theater, built in 1937 and closed eight years ago, is not historically or architecturally unique.

"You can fall in love with an old building, but in this case why?" she said. "It's not that old, and it's not that unique."

As part of the firm's research, Ms. Coale said, she talked to about two dozen people who live, work or do business in the Pikesville community.

"You got everything from 'I had my first date there,' to 'it's ugly,' " she said. She added that it was not mentioned in the history of Pikesville she consulted.

Mr. Needle said the board's 100-member advisory committee voted unanimously about a month ago to go with a 400-seat theater that would be suitable for plays, musical productions and art shows.

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