Price Stalls Purchase Of Capitol Theater
By Anne McKay Garris
Interesting the difference a threatened recession makes. In August, the Clearwater City Council voted unanimously to move forward with the purchase of the Capitol Theater in Downtown Clearwater and the "Lokey" property next door. The asking price was $2.6 million and the appraisal was coincidentally, also $2.6 million. The final vote was scheduled for September 4.
The idea was that the building would be remodeled to be a performing arts center in Downtown Clearwater (which would, of course, revitalize Downtown. Doesn't everything?). PACT, the organization which operates the Ruth Eckerd Hall theater, had signed on to provide $8 million towards renovating the one hundred and eighteen-year-old building. The City was signing on for $3.8 million towards the renovation over and above the purchase price.
According to Councilman George Cretekos, the source for the City's contribution had not been determined yet. It could be Penny For Pinellas money, or money from the Downtown Development Board fund, or other undedicated sources.
The plan was to provide a venue for the smaller theatrical performers who could attract a 500 to 600 seat audience but would not fill the much larger Ruth Eckerd Hall which seats approximately 2,000. The hope was to preserve the historic facade of the Capitol and as much of the interior as would be compatible with modern theatrics. It was felt this would fit with the "Cafe District" identity now being promoted for Downtown Clearwater.
The Clearwater City Charter, however, requires two appraisals and the second appraisal came in at $1.750 million. Councilman Paul Gibson used his realtor's knowledge to caution that the $2.6 million purchase price probably would not be recovered by the City if PACT was unable to raise their $8 million share and the plan fell through.
"If we have to sell the property," he suggested, "we would be unlikely to get our money out of it at today's prices."
With the owners of the Lokey parcel seemingly unwilling to lower their price to meet the second appraised amount, the purchase of the theater and nearby property was removed from the Council agenda with no scheduled time to reconsider it.
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