Senator Foreclosure Auction Is Off

April 15, 2009|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,

Monday's scheduled foreclosure auction of the Senator Theatre has been canceled, as city officials work on plans to acquire the 70-year-old North Baltimore landmark.

C. Larry Hofmeister, an attorney representing mortgage holder 1st Mariner Bank, said Tuesday that there are no plans to reschedule the auction at this time.

Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon announced Saturday that the city, which is the guarantor on $600,000 of the Senator's $950,000 mortgage, would seek to purchase the mortgage from 1st Mariner. Provided no one steps forward willing to pay off the full amount of the mortgage, the proposal calls for the city to then find someone to operate the theater, preferably as a community-based arts and education center, likely to include movie screenings as well as concerts and other events.

The proposal would have to be approved by the city's Board of Estimates, a process that could take 30 to 60 days, Deputy Mayor Andrew Frank said. Plans call for the city to put together an advisory group, including neighborhood residents and other interested parties, to recommend uses for the theater.

Tuesday, the city's Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation canceled a public hearing on a proposal to place the Senator's interior on a "special list" of protected building interiors. Board members met in closed session with City Solicitor George A. Nilson to go over details of the proposal. The hearing was rescheduled for CHAP's May 12 meeting. Departing Senator owner Tom Kiefaber has been critical of the proposed landmark designation, saying whoever owns the building needs to be able to adapt the interior in response to changes in movie exhibition technology and audience attendance patterns.

He also has said such an interior designation, which would be a first for CHAP, would lessen the value of the Senator because it would limit what a prospective buyer could do to the inside of the building. He has said the proposal scared away a potential investor in the theater shortly before it stopped showing first-run movies March 15.

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