Citizens' group disputes viability of performing arts center in Pikesville BALTIMORE COUNTY


The question of how to best revitalize Pikesville's old business district has often sparked controversy, the latest over the use of the old Pikes movie theater.

An elaborate plan drawn by the cultural arts foundation that controls the building, and aided by the Pikesville Chamber of Commerce and Baltimore County government, would turn the theater into a 400-seat performing arts center that would draw people nightly to the central business district.

Some residents and business leaders think that's a hokey idea. They say the old movie theater should remain a cinema and show art films.

Fields' Pharmacy owner Jeffrey Levin, secretary of the 25- to 30-member Pikesville Community Growth Corp., wants to keep the theater as a movie house.

This is not the first time Mr. Levin has objected to plans for improving the business district. He was the lone businessman in Pikesville to publicly denounce a $1 million county-funded streetscape beautification project along four blocks of Reisterstown Road.

Mr. Levin, Marvin Morrison, the growth group's president, and Stephen Hoffman, its vice president, argue that the $2 million performing arts center will never get off the ground, or worse, will open but never stay above water financially, especially because the Jewish Community Center is building a performing arts theater in Owings Mills.

They've launched a publicity campaign to convince people tha$500,000 spent to renovate the 700-seat movie theater will bring more people into Pikesville than a performing arts theater that will need operating subsidies to keep going.

"All cultural things operate at a deficit," Mr. Levin said.

His group has scheduled a meeting tonight at the Pikesville Library to discuss the subject.

Aimee A--ek, director of the Greater Baltimore Cultural Arts Foundation, which controls use of the building with Baltimore County, said "there is not a division in the community" over how best to use the theater. She said the county conducted studies and supports the foundation's plans. She also described the Pikesville Community Growth Corp. as a small group of people who are well-intentioned but wrong.

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