Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Clearwater, Ruth Eckerd Hall study purchase, renovation of Royalty Theatre

Former owner Socrates A. Charos says he would like to see the city of Clearwater and Ruth Eckerd Hall buy the Royalty Theatre.

BILL SERNE | Times (2007)

Former owner Socrates A. Charos says he would like to see the city of Clearwater and Ruth Eckerd Hall buy the Royalty Theatre.

CLEARWATER — The Royalty Theatre, a historic downtown landmark and former hub for the performing arts, has grabbed the attention of city officials.

There's a chance the city could partner with Ruth Eckerd Hall to buy the roughly 100-year-old building that sits near the corner of Osceola Avenue and Cleveland Street.

But to do so, city officials want to take baby steps. They stress that they're not jumping into this until they know more.

First, officials say, they want an appraisal of the property, as well as the nearby Lokey building. Then they want to know just how much money they'll have to pay for the two and just how much the Hall is willing to chip in.

Right now, the city is going to ante up $6,000 for an appraisal, which should happen soon.

Behind-the-scenes talks between the two groups indicate that Ruth Eckerd officials would like the city to pay $2.6-million for the old vaudeville house. And then the Hall would come up with some $11.5-million to renovate it.

City Council member Paul Gibson, who has held talks with Ruth Eckerd officials, said the Performing Arts Center and Theater, which is responsible for operating Ruth Eckerd Hall, would use a $5-million endowment to pay for the renovations. The PACT hopes to raise the remaining $6.5-million.

However, Gibson has concerns that if Clearwater bought the building and the additional money isn't raised, then the city would be stuck with an unprofitable boondoggle.

Although he praised Ruth Eckerd officials, he said he's against spending tax money on the building. He's also against the appraisal.

Other council members don't share his feelings.

"I'm committed to the fact that we should preserve historic buildings in the city," Mayor Frank Hibbard said. "There's only a few really left in Clearwater.

Both the mayor and Carlen Petersen said performing arts will have a "great economic impact" and lure more visitors into a downtown the city is trying to revitalize.

Added Vice Mayor George Cretekos: The appraisal "is just one step to see if we should take the next one."

Robert Freedman, president and chief executive officer of Ruth Eckerd Hall, said it's "a little premature to talk about" the purchase.

However, he said he would like to see the his organization operate and maintain the 665-seat building while running jazz and dance events, showcasing up-and-coming artists and hosting film series.

He said Ruth Eckerd officials will meet Wednesday to further discuss the plans.

Socrates A. Charos, who bought the Royalty Theatre in 1999 for $250,000 but lost it a little more than a month ago to lenders, said he has the first option to buy it back if he can raise the money.

However, he said, he'd rather see the city and Ruth Eckerd Hall take over.

"Bless them, that would be great," said Charos, 61, a Dunedin resident.

"This would be good for the artistic community. There's so many good talents and they need someplace to display themselves," he said. "Art brings a lot of joy and happiness to people and I see a lot of hope there."

In December the theater was slated to be auctioned because Charos owed lenders $1.2-million, but he bought time by submitting Chapter 11 bankruptcy papers. He said he lost a lot of customers when the city began revitalization work a few years ago on Cleveland Street that tore up the downtown's main east-west thoroughfare and cut off access to many businesses.

The building, which Charos says is worth at least $2.8-million, has a long and colorful history.

After serving as a vaudeville house, it became a movie theater, only to close in the 1970s when multiplexes took hold. The theater then became a playhouse for a local troupe before the group folded in 1997.

Its history includes a 1981 murder in the theater's balcony and some say they've even seen ghosts in it.

Clearwater, Ruth Eckerd Hall study purchase, renovation of Royalty Theatre 08/08/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 13, 2008 3:02pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Wisniewska: I protected our students and USFSP campus

    Columns

    Throughout my tenure in academia, my focus has always been on putting students first.

    The USF St. Petersburg Campus, Thursday, June 19, 2014.
  2. Bucs defensive end Chris Baker (90) is seen during training camp last month at One Buc Place. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  3. Bucs' defensive attributes in opener included flexibility

    Bucs

    TAMPA — It's a blink-and-you-miss-it nuance, but in Sunday's opener against Chicago, on their very first defensive snap, the Bucs lined up in a 3-4 defense.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter shakes hands with cornerback Brent Grimes (24) before an NFL game between the Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times 

  4. Along the Alafia River, the grateful extend a hand to the Irma-sodden weary

    Hurricanes

    LITHIA — The things that make a house a home dried in the afternoon sun Thursday in a front yard on Williams Street.

    Volunteers from FishHawk Fellowship Church helped Brian Hood (left) clean up debris from his yard in Valrico, Fla. Last week the Alafia River reached a depth of almost 23 feet, about 10 feet above its flood stage. Many homes were damaged, some became uninhabitable. Hood's home is 6 inches above Lithia Pinecrest Road, and did not sustain flood damage, though not all of his neighbors were as lucky.   [MONICA HERNDON   |   Times]
  5. What to watch this weekend: 'Star Trek: Discovery,' 'DuckTales' returns

    Blogs

    Boldly go: Star Trek: Discovery

    It's been more than 50 years since the original Star Trek premiered, but the new CBS series is set 10 years before Kirk and Spock. Star Trek: Discovery explores the war between the Federation and the Klingons while following the USS Discovery, an exploratory …

    Sonequa Martin-Green in Star Trek: Discovery on CBS.