Plans for Pikes theater fall through Group ends 3-year bid to create arts center on Pikesville site

December 13, 1996|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

The 7-year-old dream of turning the closed Pikes movie theater in central Pikesville into a performing arts center has finally died.

The Greater Baltimore County Cultural Arts Foundation Inc. formally threw in the towel yesterday, with only about $63,000 in cash left from its three-year fund-raising effort.

"I'm extremely disappointed," said Lowell Glazer, foundation fund-raising chairman. "I still think it was a great idea."

Control of the 59-year-old, art deco building in the 900 block of Reisterstown Road -- closed since 1983 -- now reverts to Baltimore County. Officials say they plan to advertise for private development proposals.

Robert L. Hannon, county economic development director, was the only person yesterday to see the foundation's fund-raising failure in a positive light.

"What this represents is an opportunity," he said of the county's retaking control of the building.

"It gives the county a chance to do something it has never done before -- develop a property," Hannon said.

Since 1989, plans for the property have included a proposed post office; a district court/garage; demolition of the building and construction of a $4.5 million theater; and, most recently, the $2 million proposed renovation into a performing arts center.

The Baltimore County Revenue Authority bought the theater and its nearly 1-acre site from the Pivin Family Trust in 1992 for $800,000 and leased it to the county. The authority operates 65 parking meters there.

Fund raising for renovation of the theater began in 1993. Glazer said more than $300,000 was raised in pledges, but only $151,833 in cash. The foundation never got enough money to trigger private matching pledges of $125,000 or a $500,000 state matching grant.

He added that only money contributed by foundation board members was used to pay the foundation's $88,800 operating expenses over three years.

The remaining money will now be distributed to other charities, he said.

Critics of the performing arts center proposal were quick to say that the fund-raising effort's failure validates their opposition.

Gerald Altman, a retired lawyer who favored a cheaper conversion of the building into an art-film theater, said that the failed proposal "never had a chance. All those years we've lost, and we're back where we started."

But Nancy K. Garfinkel, Pikesville Chamber of Commerce director, said old Pikesville's business district has enjoyed an economic rebirth in recent years. That means the theater has a better chance now for redevelopment, she said.

County Council Chairman Kevin Kamenetz, a Pikesville-Randallstown Democrat, agreed, arguing that "if nothing had been done, it would be a post office. We've preserved the site."

Pub Date: 12/13/96

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