Pikes Theater plan would cost county


Baltimore County's taxpayers would take a $600,000 loss on the sale of the long-vacant Pikes Theater building under a plan that would redevelop it into an Italian grocery and restaurant.

The proposal last month by Struever Bros., Eccles & Rouse to transform the 1930s-era buildingin the 900 block Reisterstown Road calls for a price of $200,000 -- a fourth of what then-County Executive Roger B. Hayden agreed to pay for the building in 1992.

But County Councilman Kevin Kamenetz, a Pikesville-Randallstown Democrat, said that while his predecessors might have overpaid for the building, the plan for an Italian market is by far the best available for the theater, which closed in 1983.

"This brings an exciting new product to Pikesville's restaurant row," Kamenetz said, noting that the only other proposal would have required giving the building away and adding $1 million in public funds to renovate it as a theater.

In addition, the market idea will preserve the building's facade, put the property back on the tax rolls and include legal covenants preventing any "offensive uses," such as a pawn shop or check-cashing shop, he said.

The Baltimore County Revenue Authority, the building's legal owner, is negotiating to sell it to three Pikesville businessmen, who will lease it to DiPasquale's Gourmet Italian Market of Highlandtown. Hayden used the the Baltimore County Revenue Authority as a purchasing vehicle to buy the property with tax dollars.

The authority board approved the deal in concept last week, said executive director George E. Hale, and the county office of law is working on settlement terms.

Yesterday, before a standing-room-only crowd at a Reisterstown Road bagel restaurant, architect Roger L. Katzenberg and Struever Vice President Mark A. Shapiro described a $1.5 million project that will leave the theater looking much as it does now, except for a new glass-front entrance and a patio on the north side, where the parking lot is.

Shapiro said the developer's vision for the interior includes retaining the plaster ceilings and walls and leveling the floor to include a coffee lounge and a 40- to 50-seat restaurant, with a food-preparation area next to the market.

The stage at the back of the building will be used for food and cooking demonstrations and classes, he said.

Construction would begin next spring, and the market would open late next summer, Shapiro said.

Earlier plans to transform the theater into a nonprofit facility for the performing arts fell through after three years of fund-raising failed to produce enough money. That proposal followed plans to convert the building into a federal post office and a combination district court building and garage.

Pub Date: 9/18/97

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