Senator Theatre wins $300,000 state tax credit for restoration

The Senator Theatre has been awarded a $300,000 state tax credit for restoration of the historic, Art-Deco style cinema house that was built in 1939.

The Senator is one of six recipients of a combined $7 million in Sustainable Communities Tax Credits, announced Tuesday by Gov.Martin O'Malley. The Senator applied last year, too, but was denied the tax credits.

Also a big winner is developer David Tufaro, of Roland Park, who was awarded $2.4 million in tax credit for his Mount Vernon Mill redevelopment project in Hampden.

Kathleen Cusack, whose father, James "Buzz" Cusack operates the Senator and also owns the Charles Theater in downtown Baltimore, said the Cusacks had to wait for the state tax credits before they could start renovatyion and construction in earnest. Construction is now expected to begin sometime in the spring," she said.

However, Cusack warned that although the award makes the Senator eligible for the funding, the Cuscks still have to convince the satate that they have $1.5 million worth of restoration projects that would qualifty for the tax credits, in order to receive the $300,000. She said is convinced that the state will approved the line items.

The expected overall project cost is about $3 million, Kathleen Cusack said. The Senator has already qualified for $400,000 in federal tax credits, to be paid out over time, and the Cusacks are making an equity investment of about $900,000, she said. In addition, the city is loaning the project $600,000, and the Cusacks plan to take out a commercial loan. The amount of that loan has not been determined yet, she said.

The Cusacks plan to add three screens to the Senator, which now has only one. They also plan to add a small cafe/wine bar, Kathleen Cusack said. She said the project will begin "as soon as we figure out the details of the rest of the funding."

But she said the Cusacks have zoning approvals and permits in hand, and contractors lined up.

"We're ready to go," she said.

The biggest projects may be replaement of the roof, which "is beyond repair," she said. That alone will cot about $100,000, she said. The state tax credits are also expected to fund restoration of a ceiling mural and original interior paint colors, she said.

The Senator, long owned by Tom Kiefaber, was sold to the Baltimore City government in July 2009. The city turnexd it over to the Cusacks to operate at a token rental in exchange for their restoration of the beloved theater at 5904 York Road.

Tufaro's $43 million Mount Vernon Mill project calls for redeveloping an old 1800s mill as a mix of office space, apartments, condominiums, estaurants and parking in th 2900 and 3000 blocks of Falls Road. Tufaro's company, Terra Nova Ventures, closed in January on three of the four buildings that will make up the 250,000-square-foot "Mill No. 1" project.

Construction was expected to begin "right away," starting with the removal of lead paint and asbestos, and the 42,000 square feet of office space are expected to be ready for leasing in about 13 months, Tufaro' daughter, Jennifer Tufaro said in January.

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