A Harford County based media production company is interested in buying the former Aberdeen Moose Lodge, where it wants to create a performing arts venue the likes of which are few and far between in northeastern Maryland, the firm's chief executive says.
Jared Noe, CEO of Suited Four plans to establish an open forum studio, where performers can share their acts with others, he said Tuesday.
"The biggest problem we see with the county is there are no good open art spaces for performers," Noe said.
To carry out his plan, which would be an expansion of his company, Noe and his colleagues are seeking to buy the Moose Lodge from the City of Aberdeen.
He has appeared before the Aberdeen City Council twice, including at the Feb. 27 meeting, to discuss his plans.
Noe also pitched the plan privately to Mayor Patrick McGrady last fall, and the mayor discussed the proposal briefly with the city council during a staff retreat in mid-October.
The proposition is an interesting one to the mayor and city council, who aren't committing to anything yet, McGrady said Monday.
"We'd love to see someone short-term or long-term convert this space to a profitable use and generate economic development tax money," the mayor said. "We're looking forward to them putting on paper a business plan, bringing it to the city and see what we can work out. It's a very exciting opportunity and we look froward to hearing more about it."
The previous city administration bought the 1.16-acre property on Rogers Street for $435,000 in October 2014, with idea it could possibly be repurposed as a museum for Aberdeen Proving Ground, which lost its popular U.S. Army Ordnance Museum as part of the BRAC base realignment process.
The property has sat vacant since, however, amid questions over how much it would cost to renovate the building and who would pay for it.
McGrady, who was elected mayor in November 2015, has expressed frustration with not having a viable plan for the property.
The mayor said there have been various groups interested in the property, most of which would remove it from the tax rolls permanently because they're not-for-profit operations.
"I'm less inclined to do that, with the idea to revitalize the area around Festival Park," the mayor said.
Noe said he and his company are hoping to buy the property "essentially for what the city put into it, for the city not to have lost money on this deal."
His company is working with a local to get financing for the project. In addition to buying the building, Noe estimates renovations to the building will require $250,000 to $500,000.
What he's planning is a facility that can be used for both production and entertainment, with performances by comedians, musicians or acting troupes, mainly on weekends, Noe said.
When it's not being used for those activities, it can be used for the company's media production projects.
Noe said he also is looking to partner with Bruce and Sherifa Clarke, who recently sold their restaurant, Laurrapin Grill in Havre de Grace, to focus on their catering business.
Working with the Clarkes, the venue would be able to provide food and drinks to customers, and the catering business would have a facility to work out of, Noe said.
Suited Four recently finished production of Robin Wright's film directorial debut that stars Sam Rockwell. Wright is well-known in Harford for her role as Claire Underwood on "House of Cards," whose production is based in Joppa.
Suited Four television productions include VFC Strong, Fresh with celebrity chef Lauren Von Der Pool and three seasons of Kawan Kitchen Mate, with the go-ahead for three more, according to the video.
The firm's other productions include corporate, industrial, live event coverage and nonprofit work.
Noe has put together a promo video for his plans for the Moose Lodge, which can be viewed at https://vimeo.com/198741175.
"As our business has grown, we have realized the need for more visible presence in the community and a gathering place for entertainers for all parts of the industry," Noe says in the video.
Noe has outlined a three-phase project, with the first part completed within three to six months of reaching an agreement with the city, he explains in the video.
The first phase would include a multi-track recording studio, a green room and isolation room.
The special events space that could accommodate 200 to 300 people would open within a year, Noe said, to host concerts, theater performances comedy nights, film premieres or teen or movie nights.
The final phase would be the lounge and kitchen space in a year or two, he said, with a game room and pool table that would "make this a fun, vibrant addition to the Aberdeen city scheme."