City plans to sell Senator Theatre to Cusack family

The Baltimore Development Corp. has agreed to sell the historic Senator Theatre to its current operators, officials said Thursday.

The BDC's acting president, Kimberly A. Clark, announced the sale to Kathleen Cusack and her father James "Buzz" Cusack at a board of directors meeting but did not disclose the terms of the sale.

Reached by phone, Kathleen Cusack said details were still being worked out.

"It certainly makes more sense for the city and for us," she said. "It's a step in the right direction."

The Cusacks, who now lease the building, are renovating the North Baltimore landmark and expanding it with three new screens and a wine bar.

The additions, to feature stadium-style seating, will accommodate 120 people in one theater along Rosebank Avenue and about 110 people in two other theaters behind the wine bar, which will have an entrance on York Road.

The theater is across York Road from Belvedere Square.

To ensure the landmark's future, the city bought the Senator in 2009 after it went into foreclosure. The BDC, the city's quasi-public development arm, then selected the Cusacks, who own the Charles Theatre, to run the movie house.

"The city and state have a large commitment to Belvedere Square," Clark said. "To allow the Senator to go dark, that would have been shortsighted on our part."

Even so, Clark said, the city always intended to own the old moviehouse only temporarily.

"The city is really not in the theater business," Clark said. "This gives us an opportunity to get out of the theater business and put it in the hands of people who love the city and love the theater.

Clark said the sale would be submitted to the city's spending panel, the Board of Estimates, for approval by the end of September.

Word of the sale comes 10 days after the theater's former owner, Tom Kiefaber, was arrested and charged with trespassing after harassing contractors on the site and entering the building, according to charging documents. Kiefaber told a Baltimore City police officer "he wished to be arrested in an attempt to get the media involved."

James Cusack filed the charges against Kiefaber, incuding five counts of trespassing, one count of harassment and an accusation of illegal dumping.

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