County Council receptive to idea of Pikesville theater as arts center


In a move seen as a key to revitalizing Pikesville, the Baltimore County Council is expected to take the first step next week toward purchasing the Pikes Theater and turning it into an arts center.

The theater, an art deco landmark in the 900 block of Reisterstown Road, has been closed for eight years and had been eyed in recent months as a possible site for a branch post office.

But county planners say a postal facility would conflict with guidelines spelled out in the county's year-old master plan, which says the community should work toward "establishing a cultural arts center in the area of the Pikes Theater."

County Council members were receptive yesterday to a resolution that would set aside or "reserve" the property, essentially preventing its owners from selling it to any party except the county until April 30, 1992.

If the county did not purchase it by then, the family of Sylvia B. Piven would be free to sell it to whomever they wanted. Charles J. Piven, a family spokesman, was unavailable for comment yesterday.

The resolution, co-sponsored by County Executive Roger B. Hayden and Councilman Melvin G. Mintz, D-2nd, is expected to be passed by the County Council Monday.

Richard Story, director of the county Economic Development Commission, said the county had money set aside to purchase the 10,600-square-foot building. The county could lease it to a private group, which could operate it as a center for stage performances, concerts, musicals and lectures, he said.

Mr. Story said the county also planned to hire a consultant to determine the site's specific possibilities as an arts center. He acknowledged that the Pivens had been asking $1 million for the property but said the county was not likely to pay that much.

"We think it's worth considerably less than that," Mr. Story said.

Mr. Mintz said interest in the project was so keen in Pikesville that afoundation had already been formed to raise money for renovations in case the building was purchased.

Howard Needle, president of the newly formed Pikesville Cultural Arts Foundation Inc., said that if the county bought the site, the foundation would likely be a candidate to lease and operate it as an arts center.

The group has begun to collect money toward the $1 million for renovations an architect has estimated would be necessary to bring the vacant building into concert-hall condition, Mr. Needle said.

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