Robey names panel to study pavilion

Group to discuss whether county should buy venue

July 29, 2004|By Laura Cadiz | Laura Cadiz,SUN STAFF

Howard County Executive James N. Robey yesterday named the 15-member citizen advisory committee that will examine the possibility of the county buying Merriweather Post Pavilion.

The panel is composed of business and arts leaders, and its chairman will be Randall Griffin, president and chief operating officer of Corporate Office Properties Trust.

"What [Robey] really was looking for was, obviously, a broad-based group that brought all the interests that he felt would be important to making a decision," said county spokeswoman Victoria Goodman.

The panel is scheduled to begin meeting by the end of next month. If the group determines the county should invest in the venue, it will examine what renovations are needed, how the pavilion should be managed and the appropriate amount of public oversight, Goodman said.

The Rouse Co. is selling the theater, which was built in 1967 as one of Columbia's original amenities, with the intention that it will be converted into an enclosed, year-round theater. The development company has not put a price on the pavilion, which the state assessed at $4.6 million.

"I think that [Merriweather] is an important element of the county, and it's an issue that needs to be examined and solved," said Griffin, whose company is the largest owner of office space in the county and also owns 11 million square feet of office space in the Mid-Atlantic region. "And so we're going to give our time to help solve it."

The county will also hire a private consultant to examine the feasibility of buying the theater and preserving it as a performing arts venue. Five firms have expressed interest, and one likely will be selected within a month.

The panel's recommendations and the feasibility study are expected to be completed by the end of the year.

In addition to Griffin, the members of the citizen panel are Steve Alms, a financial consultant with Alms and Associates; Sandy Atkins, a resident and music teacher with Howard County public schools; Rachelina Bonacci, executive director of the Howard County Office of Tourism; Tom Buescher, an arts patron and business executive of NVR, a home building and mortgage business; Frances Dawson, founder and musical director of Columbia Pro Cantare; Mo Dutterer, a resident and retired drama teacher with the county public schools; and Valerie Lash, chair of Howard Community College's Arts and Humanities Division.

Also, Chip Lundy, an arts patron and business executive of Williamsburg Builders; Toby Orenstein, owner of Toby's Dinner Theatre; Lee Richardson, chairman of the Town Center Village Board; Buddy Roogow, a resident and former Howard County chief administrative officer; Paul Skalny, a member of the Howard County Chamber of Commerce; Anne Stuart, chair of the Howard County Economic Development Authority board and president of the Columbia Festival of the Arts; and Colleen West, executive director of the Howard County Arts Council.

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