Parkway Theatre Revitalization Initiative
“Move along folks, nothing to see here.”

   So, you probably ended up here after reading THIS STORY in the Baltimore City Paper. Too bad you just now found out about the Parkway.guess that doesn't reflect very favorably on my Social Communication skills. Well, what did you expect from an old codger with no money, no political or artistic credentials and an anachronistic vision for the once and future Parkway? Not much, I suppose, so, just move along. Nothing to see here, nothing at all.

   This is how it ends. After twelve years of tedious, futile effort to raise consciousness about the Parkway Theatre, the time has come to dim, nay extinguish any hope whatsoever that anyone with the media, financial or political clout to do anything comprehensively about it gives a crap. Well over 17,000 (not much by YouTube standards) visits to this website in this time span produced exactly ONE seemingly genuine offer of assistance, which evaporated, never to be heard from again when a follow-up inquiry was made. Multiple, polite appeals to area media outlets and personalities were likewise ignored: Baltimore Sun, City Paper (until recently), Baltimore Magazine, The Urbanite (RIP), WYPR, WEAA, Baltimore City Government, Ken Burns. I could go on, but why bother? Oh wait, I almost forgot those tiny, one-off mentions by Jacques Kelly, The Baltimore Brew and What Weekly Magazine. Appreciated, but not much help.

    So, what were those 17,000+ visitors looking at? Apparently not much. Although I’m sure a large number of those “hits” were from repeat visitors (not easy to document how many), an incredibly large percentage (well over 98%) saw fit to go no deeper into the site than the first (index) page, despite the wealth of photographic documentation, historical information and logical, realistic plans, some with unique features, it contained. So, why did “they”, “they” being “you”, bother coming to the site? Who knows? Certainly, there was almost zero feedback, of any kind, apart from a few (less that 0.01%) Guestbook entries. Were you mesmerized by the train wreck? Hoping for a miracle? Miracles are sooooo First Century, don’t you know? You liked the organ music? Guess that’s the end of THAT pipe dream. It certainly didn’t help that the Station North Arts and Entertainment District, within whose borders the Parkway sits as its most recognizable and potentially magnificent asset, made a conscious decision to ignore this website and its pleas for some, ANY recognition. So much B.S. as-it-were. So much for the Baltimore Development Corporation and its super-secret deliberations to pick a developer from among three (IMHO) seriously flawed proposals, without so much as an annoyed nod to the one person with the most time and emotional investment in the structure and its fate in modern times.

    All the hits from folks in Minnesota. WTF? All the hits from Educational Institutions, near and far. All the hits from legal offices (scary), all the hits from banking and financial institutions. All the hits from Doctors and medical institutions. All the hits (lately) from folks all over North Carolina. All very puzzling.

So, the future shapes up like this:

A. The organ (Wurlitzer Opus 1419) gets sold. I can no longer afford the storage charges to keep it around for the increasingly unlikely prospect that anyone on the development team shares my enthusiasm for, or even remembers what a theatre organ is, much less its iconic connection to the "golden age" of the Hollywood-driven movie palace.

B. The former owner digs in his heels and drags out (by protracted legal maneuvering) the City's already questionable taking of the property by emminent domain tactics. It could be quite literally years before somebody blinks (or the City grows a pair) and the chosen developer(s) actually get to start something. Tom Kiefaber could only hope to have the tenacity of Charlie Dotson.

C. The Parkway and its next-door neighbor at 1 West North Avenue limp their way through the City's historic building designation process and wind up with essentially no protection at all against the wholesale rape of their most distinctive architectural features. Presently the exterior, and ONLY the exterior of ONLY the theatre has garnered a small degree of protection by virtue of being placed on the Baltimore Historic Landmark list, a minimal designation signifying almost nothing. If CHAP, Preservation Maryland, the Baltimore City Council, Mayor, Station North, and any number of individuals and organizations gave one rat's ass about the well-being and future of the Parkway, they would be falling all over themselves to fast-track the addition of the building's INTERIOR to the Historic Landmark list. Why they won't/don't is beyond the scope of this rant, er, discussion. Suffice it to say there are many political, financial and artistic dimensions to the issue. I don't pretend to know or understand them all, but when you have fire in your belly, an information vacuum doesn't help to dispel the paranoia.

    D. As the months and years roll on, the proposed budget, if it really exists as dedicated funds, gets eroded by inflation and rising costs so that the already low-ball approach to restoration devolves into a why-bother exercise. Plaster gets "stabilized", not restored. All sorts of corners are cut. Cabaret seating in the balcony? Nah. Excavated basement for critical support space? No way. Increased stage depth for REAL production support? Not a chance. Theatre organ? Fuggggeeeeeetabooooooout it. The "Rodney Dangerfield" of classic American movie houses sinks under the weight of its own mediocrity.

     Of course, there are always those folks with tons of money and artistic vision who, if they only knew about this opportunity, MIGHT be persuaded to part with a small (to them) portion of it to get this job done the right way. "Names you must know", as Sy Sims used to say: Winfrey, Bloomberg, Waters, Ripkin. You may even know how to contact them. Or know someone who does. Be my guest. I'm outta' here.

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And oh yes: Have a nice day.