City panel approves deal for Cusacks to run the Senator

Vote prompts outburst from theater's former owner

August 25, 2010|By Julie Scharper, The Baltimore Sun

Baltimore's spending board gave a father-and-daughter team final approval Wednesday to run the historic Senator Theatre.

Charles "Buzz" Cusack and Kathleen Cusack will pay the city $1 annual rent for 40 years and receive a $700,000 loan from the city to renovate the 71-year-old movie theater under the terms of the deal approved by the Board of Estimates.

The pair will front $400,000 for the improvements, which include the construction of two restaurants and a second movie screen, and seek $550,000 in federal and state grants and historical tax credits.

The Senator's former owner, Tom Kiefaber, interupted the normally staid proceedings, accusing the Baltimore Development Corp. of being "deceitful and fraudulent" in the manner in which it negotiated the contract with the Cusacks, who run the Charles Theatre.

Kiefaber, grandson of the theater's founder, interupted Assistant City Solicitor Larry Jenkins, prompting City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young to rap his gavel and call for order.

"This is out of order," Kiefaber yelled. "This is a fraud coming down here."

After Kiefaber stormed to the back of the chamber, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said, "I'm very much looking forward to new leadership at the Senator Theatre."

She praised the Cusacks' role in the renaissance of the Station North neighborhood and said she anticipated a "viable theater" would add to the revitalized Belvedere Square area.

"Shame on you. Shame on all of you," Kiefaber yelled from the back of the room as the five-member board voted on the agreement. City Comptroller Joan M. Pratt abstained from the vote.

Four teams responded to a request for proposals last fall. BDC officials winnowed the field down to two — the Cusacks and Towson University's WTMD radio station — but the university dropped out, saying it could not come up with a workable financial model.

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