THEATER ON HOLD Power Plant renewal goes on back burner


Plans for an "off-Broadway" theater in the Inner Harbor have been put on hold as a result of the city's decision not to select a developer for the Pier 4 Power Plant.

Hope Quackenbush, managing director of the Baltimore Center for Performing Arts, said last summer she was working to open a 350-seat theater inside the northernmost structure of the three-building Power Plant complex by this spring. The project was in the works and had the city's support before officials sought bids last year from developers interested in recycling the other two Power Plant buildings.

Ms. Quackenbush said this week it is not still possible for her to meet the spring timetable and that she has not been actively working to open the theater since city officials decided not to select a developer from among the seven that submitted bids in October.

Ms. Quackenbush said she was still enthusiastic about opening a theater -- which would house small-scale touring productions unsuitable for the Lyric Opera House, Mechanic Theatre or Center Stage -- inside the Power Plant. But she said the city's decision not to move ahead with redevelopment of the rest of the 90-year-old structure gave her a chance to concentrate on the $4.3 million reconstruction of the Pier 6 concert pavilion and to finish putting together the 1991-1992 subscription series for the Mechanic.

Once the concert pavilion is open this summer and the Mechanic schedule is set, she said, she will have more time to devote to the Power Plant project.

"I had to set it aside," she said. "I think what we're proposing to do is valid, but there's a limit to what we can do in a given period of time, and this is going to take some time. I still think the [Power Plant] building has potential though. It has an incredible location."

David Gillece, acting director of Center City-Inner Harbor Development Inc., the agency that sought bids for the power plant, said earlier this year that none of the seven proposals was selected because none was entirely financed and ready to begin work. He said the agency likely would seek proposals for the facility again when the economy was stronger and encouraged original bidders to continue working on their proposals.

Among the ideas for the Power Plant -- vacant since the P. T. Flagg's dance club closed more than a year ago -- are a downtown branch of the Baltimore Museum of Art, a children's museum, a branch of the Hard Rock Cafe, a high-tech telecommunications center and several kinds of family entertainment centers. Most were designed to function inside the Power Plant along with the theater.

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