Debt and operational deficits are threatening to kill plans for the historic Senator Theatre in Baltimore, MD, to transition to community-based ownership. It now appears that closure and an auction sale are imminent.
“We just received notice that accelerated foreclosure is proceeding,” said Senator owner Tom Kiefaber in a statement. “It’s alarming to be in such a precarious position at this critical point when so many people who appreciate The Senator want it to remain in operation through this transition to a community-owned resource.”
Recent round table discussions, online forums and town meetings demonstrated strong support among Baltimore’s business and residential communities for the theatre to remain open as ownership transitions to a new non-profit, community owned entity. Historic theatres nationwide have undergone non-profit conversion to expand educational and entertainment programming and ensure their preservation.
Baltimore leaders recently formed The Senator Community Trust, which plans to start raising funds to purchase the theatre.
Even though Kiefaber has accepted a recent public offer made by Mayor Dixon to reduce the theatre’s debt, Kiefaber said the details are yet to be resolved. “It’s an involved process that’s being pressured by the foreclosure timeline,” he said. There has also been much public speculation regarding the offer, which is conditioned on the city’s determination that a non-profit Senator Theatre is sustainable.
Some believe that decision has already been made.
“We have looked at many examples for a nonprofit and not one of them exists without considerable subsidy,” according to a member of the city’s Senator Theatre steering committee. “That is not possible in today’s environment.”
A town hall meeting is set for March 16 at the Senator, with city and state officials and members of the city’s ad hoc Senator Steering Committee as well as concerned citizens.