Big plans for the Pikes


The non-profit Pikesville Cultural Arts Foundation wants to spend $300,000 to renovate the 55-year-old Pikes Theater into a cinema for foreign and classic films, and later raze the building to make way for a 400-seat performing arts center.

Even foundation officials admit it's a wacky idea. But their hope -- or Hollywoodesque fantasy -- is to raise almost $5 million so the arts center can open in about five years. When it does, the officials say, Baltimore County will have the region's best mid-sized facility for music and dance; suburbanites in search of culture won't have to venture downtown, and the anticipated crowds will give a boost to Pikesville's sagging business core.

Raising millions of dollars for an arts facility in this economy will prove a difficult job. Private individuals, banks and corporations are no longer as able to contribute as they were during the '80s.

The foundation also wants to tap government sources for support, but that route could lead to further difficulties, as the Pikes group and more established cultural institutions in Baltimore would compete for a shrinking supply of public arts dollars. Government funds, not to mention customers, for the Pikes could be funds and customers taken from city arts attractions that serve not just Baltimore but all the surrounding counties.

For these reasons, the Pikes group should forge ahead with its idea for a revamped movie house while shelving the arts center proposal. A first-rate cinema could draw as many people as the center might, which would meet the foundation's main goals of giving local folks a nearby destination for a night out and injecting life into Pikesville.

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