After receiving yet another renovation proposal for the historic Carolina Theatre, the citys economic development committee decided Monday to draw a line in the sand and set Dec. 3 as the deadline for making its recommendation.
That means the full Charlotte City Council could vote on the uptown buildings future as early as Dec. 17, bringing to an end three decades of hand-wringing over what to do about the 85-year-old building.
In setting a deadline, committee members said they feared even more proposals could be submitted, delaying a final decision indefinitely.
Id suggest we stop the tidal wave, Patrick Cannon told the committee. Where does it end? When does it stop? At some point, we have to draw a line in the sand.
Built in 1927, the city-owned theater at 230 N. Tryon St. is Charlottes most high-profile vacant building, located two blocks from Trade and Tryon.
It was for a time the flagship of Charlotte entertainment, hosting celebrities such as Bob Hope and Elvis Presley. It has been closed for 34 years.
The latest of the three proposals was presented Monday, when the ARK Group offered $500,000 for the site, with a pledge to renovate the theater and build a 12- to 15-story office tower in front.
Similar proposals have already been made by Foundation for the Carolinas (offering $1) and CMP Carolina Theatre LLC (offering $250,000), the latter of which lost its purchase agreement on the site last year.
The ARK Group is best known in the community for taking an empty textile mill and converting it into the mixed-use NC Music Factory. ARK officials say that site is visited by more than 1 million people a year and employs 1,200.
Rick Lazes of the ARK Group said the company could begin redeveloping the site almost immediately and could complete the project in three to five years.
All three proposals call for renovating the theater to resemble its glory days, though none are promising a complete historic restoration.
The specifics of their renovation plans will be presented to the committee on Dec. 3. The committee is poised to vote afterward on which proposal it will support.
Committee member David Howard said Monday that hes more concerned with the quality of renovation than the amount of money being offered for the site.
He was also keen to know what activities the three developers expect to host a detail that has been at the core of the redevelopment debate.
The Foundation for the Carolinas has proposed turning the site into a nonprofit/civic center, with a commercial element worked into an adjacent office tower.
The other two developers want a commercial site, with space available for nonprofit offices and civic affairs.
Both have courted the foundation, seeking a collaboration that would be more apt to win city support.
However, the foundation has so far resisted.
Foundation President Michael Marsicano said thats because it would prefer civic interests to be at the core of the project.
The foundation, which is located next to the theater, intends to partner with a commercial developer on creating the office tower, he said, but we dont want commercial interests to be in the drivers seat.
We feel were compromised when the guiding principle is for profit, Marsicano said. We have a different vision for the theater.
The foundation proposes using the theater for civic gatherings, with an element of public performance hosted on weekends. It also wants to have a strong nonprofit presence in the office tower, alongside some for-profit companies.
ARK Group and CMP Carolina Theatre LLC have suggested they would host a broader range of entertainment in the theater, including film and theatrical performances.
Experts say elaborate entertainment is a tough fit for the site because it has a shortage of backstage space.
Mark Price: 704-358-5245
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