The Senator Theatre will go on the auction block July 21.
The date was set at Thursday's monthly meeting of the Baltimore Development Corp., which will be overseeing the sale; the minimum bid will be $1 million. No location or starting time for the auction has been set. "If someone is willing to come and bid the million dollars, that's acceptable, and they'll own a theater," BDC executive director Kimberly Clark said. "We'll work with those folks on an outcome that's best for the community."
If no one bids the minimum, the BDC is prepared to conduct a nationwide search for someone willing to either buy the 70-year-old North Baltimore movie house or operate it as an educational and performing arts center, with the city retaining ownership.
Clark said she has heard from at least two prospective bidders with the financial wherewithal to pay at least the minimum price for the theater. Plus, she said: "I'm hearing from other parties that they have been contacted. There seems to be definite interest out there."
Now that the date has been set, current Senator owner Tom Kiefaber said, the city needs to promote the auction, attract as many potential buyers as possible and get back the money it paid 1st Mariner.
"The Senator's auction sale should be proactively promoted nationwide," Kiefaber said, to "help ensure the recovery of scarce city funds sorely needed for more pressing matters, and to attract and encourage the private sector to take the Senator to the next level as the premiere entertainment and educational venue in the region."
The fate of the Senator has been up in the air since March, when mortgage holder 1st Mariner Bank initiated foreclosure proceedings after Kiefaber fell several months behind on his mortgage payments. Last week, Baltimore City bought the Senator's note from 1st Mariner, giving it greater control over the theater's fate.