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Owners of theater building to donate it to Maryland Theatre

If deal goes through, $10 million project would involve major renovations to 25-29 S. Potomac St. and to theater lobby

September 20, 2010|By DAN DEARTH

The owners of the building that houses The Maryland Theatre's offices at 25-29 S. Potomac St. in Hagerstown are finalizing plans to donate the property to the theater.

Richard Phoebus, president and CEO of the Hagerstown-Washington County Industrial Foundation, known as CHIEF, said his organization acquired the building in 2003 through a partnership with the city. If everything goes as planned, the transfer could take place by the end of this week.

"We've not closed on it yet," Phoebus said in an interview Thursday. "We hope to close in a week to 10 days."

Phoebus said CHIEF maintained control of the property to ensure it would be used for "an arts and entertainment purpose," and rented it to theater officials for $1 per year for the past seven years.

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He said CHIEF delayed the transfer of ownership for several reasons.

"The Maryland Theatre had a choppy history with regard to management and financial stability," Phoebus said. "Over the last two years, that has changed. ... The managers have pulled it together."

Jay C. Constantz, the theater's executive director, said there are big plans if the deal goes through.

The $10 million project would involve major renovations to 25-29 S. Potomac St. and to the lobby of The Maryland Theatre, which is next door at 21 S. Potomac St., he said.

The 1,379-seat theater would stay much the same, Constantz said, but the lobby would be extended to the sidewalk through the existing courtyard. He said the first floor of 25-29 S. Potomac St. would be used primarily as a ticket office, and the second floor would be occupied by offices. Studios would take up a good portion of the third floor, Constantz said, while the fourth floor would have a reception hall and terrace.

"We're in the very first stage, which is acquiring the property," Constantz said. "I think it's exciting. In my estimation, it would take eight to 10 years to raise the money."

Constantz said theater officials would create a special fundraising committee for the project.

"We'll look for tax credits and grants on all levels," he said. "This is the kind of project that would require public and private investment."

The property at 25-29 S. Potomac St. is assessed at $371,600, according to Maryland tax records.

Constantz said the theater wouldn't have to pay property taxes because it is a nonprofit organization.

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