Observing from beyond the solar system, a cultural outsider looks in.

Friday, April 23, 2010

BDC Recommends Interior Demolition of Senator Theatre

In a move more or less predicted by this blog over a year ago, in March of 2009, the BDC yesterday recommended that the city hand The Senator Theatre over to James "Buzz" Cusack, operator of the Charles Theater. This was easy to see coming, as Mr. Cusack long ago expressed interest in taking over The Senator, and has been, through his seat on the city's CHAP commission and along with Robert C. "Bob" Embry of the Abell Foundation, part of the cabal that helped Baltimore City gain control of The Senator with CHAP's action last May to propose unprecedented interior controls on The Senator over the objections of then-owner Tom Kiefaber.

As this blog has documented, the proposed controls, which have not yet taken effect, since they were never passed by the city council, served to scare other private investors away from The Senator and limit bidding at the foreclosure auction on The Senator in July 2009. This enabled Baltimore City to acquire the theatre at a cut-rate price, far below its market value.

Cusack's proposal, recommended by the BDC yesterday, proposes interior demolition of original features of The Senator at taxpayer expense. Cusack proposes to knock holes in the walls of the iconic circular outer lobby and destroy the original ladies' and men's lounges and restrooms, turning the ladies lounge and restroom into a crepe restaurant.

Click the image below to view Mr. Cusack's interior demolition plan:

It is unclear whether this interior demolition would be prohibited by CHAP's proposed interior controls, but this question is currently an academic one, as those controls have yet to become legislation.

Mr. Cusack's plan calls for a long-term lease that amounts to an ownership interest in The Senator at $1 a year. He needs it to grant him an ownership interest in order to apply for historic tax credits. In other words, he is proposing that city taxpayer's $1 Million investment in The Senator be handed to him essentially for free. On top of that, he is also asking for city taxpayer funds amounting to $700,000. It should be noted that city officials took The Senator away from Tom Kiefaber based on the excuse that they didn't want to subsidize his business, but Mr. Cusack is already asking for more public subsidy from city taxpayers than Mr. Kiefaber ever received or ever even asked for.

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OpenID darthmorgul said...

If I recall correctly, the day Kiefaber testified at the CHAP hearing he not only asked why the interior restrictions were being proposed (and why at this particular time), but also, if they were indeed meant to protect the interior spaces of the theatre, why the ladies' and mens' lounges and restrooms were being excluded from the protections?

Perhaps, because it was already known that Cusack, a fellow CHAP board member, was expected to obtain the property and desired to reinvent those particular areas of the building?

April 24, 2010


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