Although the Old Town Theater has been vacant for most of this year, it’s not yet in its final act.
The city’s Board of Architectural Review on Wednesday night approved current owner Robert Kaufman’s plans to revitalize the building. All it needs now is a tenant, and it looks likely that its next inhabitant will again fill its walls with a silver screen.
Theater owner Robert Kaufman told the board that he hoped “I would tell you that I got a theater, but that has not yet come to pass. … I believe I’m going to end up getting a theater.”
The theater, located at 815 ½ King St., closed and was sold in January after its previous owner, Roger Fons, struggled for nine years to keep it running. Kaufman has been entertaining ideas to convert the space to retail or keep it as a theater, if the proper tenant could be found.
Kaufman on Wednesday evening explained his architectural plans to the board and reiterated that he intends to keep the iconic Old Town Theater letters but slim down the marquee.
At the meeting, John Hynan of the Historic Alexandria Foundation said Kaufman’s new presentation shows improvements, complimenting the redesigned marquee for appearing smaller and plainer without being “over illuminated” and “over sized.” He added that he would have liked the new plan to recess the doors as they were in 1914, but said he ultimately hoped the board would approve the plan.
Historic preservation advocate Boyd Walker spoke in support of the theater’s new design, adding that he owns the development across the street and it’s “important to our tenants how this building looks.” He also suggested that the latest design add sign boards if it’s to remain a movie theater.
Board member Wayne Neale said he believed that under current building code, if it remains a movie theater, the new tenant probably would not have to go before City Council for a special use permit because it would be considered “continual use.”
Member Chip Carlin commended Kaufman for his ability to respond to comments from the community urging him to keep it a theater and said Kaufman’s “commitment to design — whether it goes retail — should be commended.”
Future tenants are supposed to submit final plans before the BAR.