A 2nd Plan For Parkway Theatre

Polakoff, Manekins Propose Use For Live Entertainment

August 18, 2009|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,ed.gunts@baltsun.com

One member of the development team served as the volunteer owner's rep for a $30 million expansion of Baltimore's School for the Arts. Two others recently turned the dilapidated Census Building on Howard Street into Miller's Court, a $20 million center with affordable housing for teachers and offices for local nonprofits.

Now they've joined forces in an effort to save one of the most prominent landmarks in the Station North Arts and Entertainment District, the historic but dormant Parkway Theatre at 3-5 W. North Ave.

Samuel Polakoff, managing director of Cormony Development and a member of the Board of Overseers at the School for the Arts, and Donald and Thibault Manekin of Seawall Development Corp., the company behind Miller's Court, head a team that proposed to restore the 1915 Parkway Theatre as a setting for live entertainment.

Baltimore Development Corp. announced Monday that Polakoff and the Manekins are on one of two teams that responded to a request for proposals from groups that want to renovate the theater and adjacent properties. Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. would be the general contractor, and Ziger/Snead and Cho Benn Holback + Associates would be the architects.

They propose to renovate the Parkway for use as a "multifaceted theatre able to accommodate a wide variety of entertainment," according to the development agency. Buildings at 1 W. North Ave. and 1820 N. Charles St. would be incorporated into the project through demolition, renovation and new construction.

The competing proposal from Virginia-based businessman Joseph E. "Teddy" Kim, made public last week, calls for the theater to become a 600-seat cinema and drafthouse that would be run by the same team that runs the Arlington Cinema 'N' Drafthouse operation in Northern Virginia. The corner building would contain the Station North Steak House, and the building at 1820 N. Charles St. would contain seven or eight apartments. Brown Craig Turner of Baltimore would be the architect, and Branko Maximilian Bijelic would be the general contractor.

The development agency in May requested proposals that preserve the theater and adjoining properties for "cabaret, film, live music and live performance." The deadline for bids was Aug. 7.

"We are pleased to receive two interesting responses as we advance the revitalization of the Charles North area," said M.J. "Jay" Brodie, development corporation president.

Cormony recently agreed to bow out of a $250 million development project on Russell Street, called Gateway South, so Baltimore's only slots casino can be built on the land instead.

Besides opening Miller's Court this year, the Manekins recently received Baltimore Planning Commission approval for another $20 million project, conversion of a historic mill at 1500-1620 Union Ave. in the Jones Falls Valley to affordable housing and commercial space.

Polakoff said he submitted a proposal for the Parkway because he believes its location near the southwest corner of Charles Street and North Avenue makes it key to the revitalization of the 100-acre Station North arts district.

"The future of that district is to a large degree dependent on the corners of North Avenue and Charles Street being stabilized," he said.

Polakoff said his renovation would be designed to "maximize the use of the theater" as a setting for live music and drama, comedy, movies and other performances. The project would also have a food service component open to the community even when the theater is dark.

The Parkway was designed by Oliver B. Wight and patterned after the West End Theatre near Leicester Square in London. The design is in the Louis XIV style and was envisioned as a vaudeville performance house with about 1,100 seats. The theater was acquired in 1926 by the Loews organization and extensively remodeled. It operated as a movie house until it was acquired and closed in 1952 by the Morris Mechanic organization. It reopened in 1956 as the Five West Art Theatre and stayed open until the mid-1970s. In the 1990s, a former owner attempted to open commercial space in the rear orchestra level. The theater has been vacant for more than a decade.

City officials are reviewing the proposals with the goal of selecting one by late September to move ahead with its project.

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