From: Oxford, OH
Registered: May 2003
posted July 15, 2004 10:38 AM
From: Connecticut Post 13 July 2004
Decaying movie theaters' fate up for decision
By FRANK WASHKUCH Jr. firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday, July 13, 2004 -
BRIDGEPORT — The city doesn't yet have a plan for its decaying former movie showcases on Main Street, but the landmark buildings may be edging toward center stage.
The once-thriving theaters are "definitely on the radar screen," Caryn Kaufman, mayoral aide, said Monday.
The hiring of former Stratford Town Manger Michael Feeney as director of mayoral initiatives by Mayor John M. Fabrizi should facilitate a decision on the fate of the Majestic and Palace theaters, she said.
"First you have to figure out what you want your end project to look like," said Kaufman, adding that retail stores and a performing arts school are a few of the possibilities for the property.
Fabrizi had said he wanted to hold an open forum on the future of the theaters, but a date was never set.
Kaufman has said a full renovation of both theaters would cost about $100 million, so the chances for such a plan with public money are "slim-to-none."
Once state-of-the-art entertainment venues, the downtown theaters both closed about 40 years ago. Since then, both have fallen into disrepair.
The future of the two theaters is also important because they are a downtown welcoming point for motorists leaving Route 8, Kaufman said.
"The property is the entry to downtown," she said.
A walking tour of both theaters last month attracted more than 50 people.
Barbara Hall, vice president of the Bridgeport Community Historical Society, said she doesn't know how much it would cost to renovate the theaters, but said she'd like to see at least one of them refurbished in a best-case scenario.
Hall said she believes there is still a market for live entertainment in Bridgeport despite its proximity to Broadway, theaters in New Haven and Stamford, and the renovated Palace Theater in Waterbury.
"Why shouldn't we have 'Riverdance' or 'The Producers' in Bridgeport?" she said.
She said there may be interest in saving both theaters despite their current state of disrepair.
"There are people here and in other cities that are very interested in salvaging older buildings," she said.
Frank Washkuch Jr., who covers regional issues, can be reached at 330-6388.
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