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

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Tom Kiefaber's letter to CHAP

Former Senator Theatre owner Tom Kiefaber copied me and also several others, including reporters for the local media, on this letter to Baltimore City's Commission on Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP) before their meeting today. I have asked for and received permission to distribute it.

Dear Ms. Kotarba and Mr. Leon: Please pass on my protest over the manner in which today's CHAP hearing is being conducted to the commissioners. I will also attempt to forward this communication to them individually as well. To proceed on this matter today under these circumstances is improper, as I elaborate below.

Sincerely, Tom Kiefaber

August 9, 2011

Dear Chairperson and CHAP members:

I am writing in my capacity as the former owner of Baltimore's once-beloved and currently degraded Senator Theatre and as an award-winning professional in the field of historic theatre operation and preservation.

It has become apparent through manipulation of the courts by way of a "Peace Order" that Ms. Kathleen Cusack, a key representative of the tenants seeking CHAP concept approval of a fourth new iteration to significantly alter The Senator Theatre, has tactically barred my in-person participation and testimony in today's CHAP commission hearing. My lawyer has advised me not to attend or risk arrest.

Today's CHAP hearing represents the forth major change in the "competitive" RFP plan awarded by the City of Baltimore, and it has become a fundamentally different project from what was approved by the BDC on behalf of the citizen owners of the renowned National Historic Landmark facility. Today's CHAP commission hearing is auspicious in that it represents a significant departure from prior CHAP approvals of three earlier concept plans for significant modification of The Senator Theatre.

From the incomplete set of drawings I was provided by CHAP staff upon request, it appears that the applicants have chosen to take the oft-delayed project in a disappointing direction by converting the remarkably intact historic structure to create a cramped and substandard four-screen film multiplex. This current direction of the controversial project is alarming, considering the ongoing seismic changes in the motion picture exhibition industry that have rendered such modified re-configurations of National Historic Landmark theatres as outmoded, costly folly. The truncated and incomplete schematics I was provided by CHAP staff show a plan that will effectively desecrate an irreplaceable and celebrated historic structure in myriad ways.

In seeking a viable alternative to my in-person testimony regarding this latest modification, which the the surrounding business and residential community has not yet been apprised of, I requested on their behalf a simple set of plans and renderings to review. I was planning, in my former capacity as the long term former independent owner and steward of the Senator Theatre, built by my family in 1939, to be able to submit to the commissioners a clear, well-reasoned written list of informed observations and valid objections to the plans being considered for concept approval at today's CHAP hearing.

Unfortunately, as often occurs surrounding past hurried CHAP meetings regarding The Senator, I was not supplied any complete and up-to-date information, and what I received also contained no second floor plan at all, nor the details of existing exterior openings, cut-throughs, fire exits, materials and elevations required to evaluate the plan.

At 11:15 am today a fuzzy image appeared by email that was useless to me, particularly with a written submission deadline to CHAP, at at noon. The additional material I requested prior to today from CHAP was also requested by me from designer Alex Castro personally. What just arrived from CHAP staff are crude electronic images that are wholly insufficient to comprehend.

In light of the factors listed above, and the highly-charged significance of this oddly convoluted, public/private profit-sharing joint venture project intending to modify one of the most intact and celebrated motion picture theaters of its type remaining in America, I respectfully request that today's CHAP hearing on The Senator be postponed for cause.

Please note as well that today's hearing is inexplicably listed on CHAP's online agenda and in the document I was provided by staff as being submitted by my Senator Limited Partnership, which no longer owns the theatre.

Please postpone and re-scheduled the CHAP hearing to allow the public and myself to actively participate in an open and transparent agency process that is accountable to, and respects the rights of the citizen owners of The Senator Theatre.

Sincerely, Thomas Kiefaber

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