City Considers Buying Royalty Theater
by Carl Wagenfohr
CLEARWATER - Despite the agony evident during recent City Council budget discussions, the City of Clearwater's appetite for spending taxpayer money has not diminished.
As revealed in an email from Assistant City Manager Jill Silverboard to City Manager Bill Horne on April 24, the city is considering the purchase of the downtown Royalty Theater and the adjacent Lokey building for a sum of about $2-million.
The 433-seat 1920's vintage performing arts center is currently valued by the Pinellas County Property Appraiser at $592-thousand, and the Lokey building at $713-thousand.
The city would form a partnership with Performing Arts Center and Theater Inc. (PACT), the operator of Ruth Eckerd Hall, with the city owning and maintaining the historic downtown property, and PACT operating it. In addition to the $2-million purchase price, about $6.5-million is budgeted for renovations. PACT would contribute about $2-million of the total, and the city would provide about $6.5-million.
In a document that outlined what Silverboard described as "Capital Project Issues - Unfunded Projects", she summarized the mixed responses of the council members with whom she discussed the proposed purchase.
Silverboard described Councilmember Carlen Peterson's response as "very supportive of the Royalty Theater." Regarding her meeting with Vice Mayor George Cretekos, she wrote, "He likes the Royalty Theater from the standpoint of providing the 'destination' needed in downtown."
The other two council members were less positive. Silverboard described Councilmember John Doran's response as "non-committal" and wrote that Councilmember Paul Gibson expressed opposition to the Royalty Theater purchase. The document made no mention of Mayor Frank Hibbard's opinion.
Silverboard added that Gibson "was critical of continued capital spending and our inability to 'get project estimates' correct.'" Gibson had recently expressed dismay at the $2-million cost overrun on the downtown boat slips project before construction had even begun.
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