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The notoriously anti-preservation Baltimore Development Corporation (BDC) is now putting The Senator Theatre through an RFP process that will determine the theatre’s future. They have repeatedly refused to involve objective, experienced historic theatre redevelopment professionals and film exhibition experts in guiding the process. They did briefly consult John Bell from the Tampa Theatre with a short list of questions by email (Bell was not allowed to see the 2 proposals under consideration), and after they received Bell’s advice, they appeared poised to do the opposite of what his advice would indicate.
I was on the BDC’s advisory panel, and attended secret meetings about the RFP process, so I have access to information that has not been made public. I resigned in protest from the panel, due to the BDC’s repeated refusals to bring historic theatre redevelopment and film exhibition experts into the process.
Friends of The Senator has started a letter campaign, asking Mayor Rawlings-Blake to intervene and insist that experts in historic theatre redevelopment and film exhibition must guide the process. We’ve made it easy for you to send your own letter to the Mayor at http://www.senatorletter.com
We’re not alone in this. Karen Colizzi Noonan, President of the Theatre Historical Society of America, and Johns Hopkins, Executive Director of Baltimore Heritage, have both chimed in with their own letters to the Mayor, expressing concerns that experts are not being consulted. They have also been joined by other local and national organizations and individuals.
In one of his books on Baltimore theatres, R.K. Headley noted that Baltimore has made war on its theatres for a hundred years. There used to be around 150 theatres in Baltimore. Now the BDC is working on probably doing lasting damage to the last remaining one of any significance that has been in continuous operation. Apparently, that war on Baltimore’s theatres continues.
The Senator is going up for auction on July 21, 2009, and word on the street is that it’s probably going to become a church. There have been inquiries from churches about buying it, and this has happened to many historic theatres.
Senator owner Tom Kiefaber says:
“In the past few months a convoluted series of announcements and actions by the city has The Senator Theatre hurtling towards a precarious public auction on 7/21, where many have predicted that it will be sold to a religious non-profit organization. Itâ€™s a unacceptable scenario that should be seen for what it is and averted like a head on collision. The latest public assurances by Ms. Clarke and Councilman Henry that the city can still control the outcome of The Senatorâ€™s public auction, by threatening to sever the historic theatre from its critical long-term parking easement, ring hollow. They are increasingly unrealistic assurances that can be thwarted in a number of ways by a church entity with a winning bid at auction.
The time has arrived for all who have a vested interest in The Senatorâ€™s potentially glorious second act, to get involved through their political representatives. Itâ€™s imperative that the process gets back on track in order to avert a potential impending disaster that may have a severe and lasting negative impact on the Belvedere Square commercial district and the extended North Baltimore communities that surround it."
A couple of blogs are regularly covering what’s happening at The Senator:
This weekend, there’s a Grateful Dead cover band/classic rock concert on Saturday night at 8 P.M. “One More Saturday Night.”