Centre Theatre project on North Avenue gets $3 million state investment

The Baltimore Sun

It has been a big week for the historic theaters of North Avenue.

First the city announced it is moving forward with the Maryland Film Festival’s plan to restore the Parkway Theatre. Now comes news that the state is chipping in a substantial sum toward the restoration of the Centre Theatre.

The group that plans to turn the 1939 theater at 10. E. North Ave. into a multi-purpose arts space has been allocated $3 million in tax credits by the Maryland Historical Trust, a division of the state’s planning department.

With the state funds, the renovated building could open as soon as Sept. 2015, said Charlie Duff, the president of Jubilee Baltimore Inc., the organization that bought the art deco theater last year and is leading the charge for its overhaul.

“We knew we would need state historic tax credits; we didn’t know if we could win them this year,” said Duff, who found out Thursday that the Centre Theatre project had been selected to receive almost half of the tax credit funds available this year from the state for historic preservation. Jubilee.

The money allows Jubilee, which paid $93,000 at public auction for the theater, to set a timetable for the restoration’s completion. That, in turn, allows the nonprofit to have serious discussions with potential tenants, Duff said.

Jubilee and its partners are talking “at a concept level” with some “awfully exciting” groups, Duff said.

The plans for the 66,000-square-foot property include one or two restaurant venues that would open onto North Avenue, “collaborative work space for creative people” and commercial space for a tenant such as a design firm or educational institution, he said.

The dining options would help “enliven” the streetscape and the work space would feature equipment — for working with metal, fabric and digital media, for instance — that is too expensive for most individuals to buy on their own, Duff said.

The project has been facilitated by the Central Baltimore Partnership, a collection of institutions and community groups from Baltimore’s mid-town neighborhoods. The partnership agreed the theater’s renovation should be a priority, Duff said. Four parties have a financial stake in the theater — the Maryland Institute College of Art, American Communities Trust and two individuals, he said.

Last month, the partnership was awarded a $100,000 Community Legacy grant by the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development to make improvements to the theater’s roof.

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