Old Pikes Theater may now be spared New plan would preserve much of it

August 21, 1993|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Staff Writer

The recession may save the old Pikes Theater after all.

The ambitious plan announced last year to demolish the 56-year-old art deco building and build a $4.5 million cultural arts center is gone -- replaced by a less expensive version that preserves much of the current building.

"Funding has dried up," David Uhlfelder, president of the board of the Greater Baltimore Cultural Arts Foundation, said about the effect of the recession at a news conference in Pikesville yesterday.

So the plan to use the vacant building as an anchor for Pikesville's economic rebirth has now come full circle, back to a scaled-down version of the original idea to expand and renovate the existing movie theater. This plan would cost $2 million. A fund-raising campaign is to begin in January, Mr. Uhlfelder said.

Also during the past year, the Pikesville boosters who began the effort decided to broaden their appeal by changing the name of their nonprofit group from the Pikesville Cultural Arts Foundation to the Greater Baltimore Cultural Arts Foundation.

What the plan is

Mark Beck, a Baltimore architect hired to draw plans for the $2 million reconstruction, said his idea is to build a performing arts stage on the north side of the current building.

That would be done by breaking through the wall and using the existing interior space for a lobby, offices, bathrooms and support functions. People would enter the new 400-seat theater through the current facade, which faces the 900 block of Reisterstown Road. The expansion would eat into the parking lot, though, and even Mr. Beck said that providing more parking for the theater, as well as for the other retail businesses and restaurants, is vital. A committee created by County Councilman Melvin G. Mintz, D-2nd, who represents Pikesville, is studying that problem.

Mr. Beck estimated that it would take 14 months to raise the money and 16 months to do the work. That would provide time to solve the parking puzzle, he said.

135 volunteers

Aimee A--ek, foundation director, said a series of four free jazz concerts held in Pikesville in July and August attracted more than 3,000 people, and 135 of them have volunteered to help develop the new performing and display arts center. That response proves that interest is strong, she said.

She also said that a theater is the perfect vehicle to advance old Pikesville's revitalization, because it would bring thousands of people into an area and would receive continual media attention because of the various shows, films and exhibitions.

The county revenue authority bought the building for $800,000 in 1992, as its contribution to the project. Carol Carpenter, who represented the county Economic Development Commission, said that no more cash contributions are budgeted now, although the county expects to do more streetscape improvements along Reisterstown Road after 1998. The county completed a $1 million streetscape project this summer in the four blocks of Reisterstown Road between Old Court Road and Sudbrook Lane.

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