BELLINGHAM - A proposal to build a mid-size performing arts theater in the city is on hold.
On Monday, Aug. 12, the City Council voted not to extend the lease of the Commercial Street Theatre Project, after the group failed to raise enough money to improve the 3,847-square-foot space in the Parkade on Commercial Street.
The council vote was 3-3, with Terry Bornemann, Cathy Lehman and Michael Lilliquist voting against the extension. Jack Weiss was absent. He had voted against the original lease agreement in May.
Lehman, who said she appeared in a video promoting the project's fundraiser, ultimately decided the extension would not have been fiscally prudent for the city.
"I love this project and really want to see it happen, but I'm struggling to (separate) my personal preferences and my responsibilities and duties as a steward of the city's assets and resources," she said.
Had the extension been approved, the city would have charged the theater project a rent of $500 a month, less than 20 percent of the market rate. Rent wouldn't be due until March 2015, after construction of a 216-seat theater.
Mark Kuntz of Kuntz Community Dance said the theater project he was spearheading with his wife, Pam, was going to provide space for 10 other groups in its first year. He said on Tuesday, Aug. 13, that he appreciated the city's generous lease offer and was not bitter over the council's decision not to extend the lease.
"Our disappointment is that we thought that the community would be interested in supporting a low-cost ... performing arts venue downtown," Kuntz said. "We're not afraid to look forward and thank those people who have supported us, and see if there are options in the future."
To keep its lease, the group needed to raise $328,000 by Aug. 1. It stopped accepting donations after July 3 and refunded the $50,419 it received.
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The name of Bellingham City Council member Jack Weiss was corrected on Wednesday, Aug. 14.
Reach RALPH SCHWARTZ at email@example.com or call 715-2298.