Pikes Theater may get state aid for renovation STATE HOUSE REPORT

April 09, 1994|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Sun Staff Writer

Pikesville boosters trying to raise $2 million to renovate and to expand the old Pikes Theater into a performing arts center are preparing for a big gift from the state.

A capital budget bond bill to provide $500,000 in public funds if boosters can raise a matching amount by June 1996 appears certain to be enacted by the General Assembly. Northwest area legislators who back the project already were celebrating yesterday.

Dels. Richard Rynd, Ted Levin, Leon Albin and Samuel Rosenberg and Sens. Paula Hollinger, Barbara Hoffman and Janice Piccinini held a news conference in Annapolis to announce their success. Identical bills have been approved by the Senate and House of Delegates. Gov. William Donald Schaefer supports them, said Page Boinest, his press secretary.

The only discouraging words came later from Fields Pharmacy owner Jeffrey L. Levin and several like-minded supporters who said the project is too expensive, will require a public operating subsidy if it is ever built and will damage -- not help -- Pikesville revitalization.

The plan "has no merit, lacks the support of residents of Pikesville, will hurt city cultural institutions and, if completed, will harm the business and residential sections of Pikesville," Mr. Levin said.

His group wants a much cheaper renovation that would reopen the 56-year-old art-deco building as an art film theater similar to the Charles downtown. The Pikes has been closed for 11 years.

The elected officials rejected the arguments.

Senator Hoffman said community support for the bills was considerably greater than the opposition. The senator, whose district will straddle the city-county line next year, said she felt the project would not hurt the city. "None of us saw it that way," she said.

Delegate Levin, a resident of central Pikesville, said he believes the theater will help keep the old business district economically viable.

Senator Hollinger saw the state money as a boost to the confidence of business people in the area. Parking is a problem, Senator Piccinini conceded, but she said that would be true whether the building became an arts center or a movie theater.

Baltimore County spent $800,000 in public funds to buy the Pikes in 1992, then leased it for $1 a year to the Greater Baltimore Cultural Arts Foundation, a private nonprofit group working on the performing arts center renovation plan.

Foundation director Aimee Adashek said she has $120,000 in pledges. Architectural renderings should be ready by June and the fund-raising completed before June 1996, she said. Construction is projected to take another 14 months.

Besides private donations, the group also is hoping to get a federal grant through the National Endowment for the Arts.

Ms. Adashek denied Jeffrey Levin's assertions that the theater always will need an operating subsidy, saying her projections show the theater should break even.

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