Originally created 03/04/03

Theater-site plans unclear



AIKEN - There are tentative plans to level downtown's abandoned Carmike Cinemas theater on Laurens Street, but details on the property's future won't be available until next week, a representative for the developer said Monday.

T and Z and Associates, an Aiken real estate investment company, has told city officials that it plans to tear down the decades-old theater and replace it with residential and commercial space.

The firm has yet to accept standing offers from the city and its primary downtown development agency to subsidize the project.

In early February, Zipper Robbins, a T and Z partner, requested the city's help with leveling the building. The city agreed to haul away debris, at an estimated cost of $20,000, if it could review design plans for the project, City Manager Roger LeDuc said.

City officials said they think T and Z's project will stimulate downtown Aiken's economy.

The Aiken Corp., an independent economic development arm of the city, has offered to pay $15,000 of the developer's planning costs, but T and Z has yet to accept the offer, Chairman Wade Brodie said Monday.

"We're just waiting to hear," Mr. Brodie said. "We're sitting on ready."

Last week, Mr. Robbins said he would make a decision about the two subsidy offers Monday, after he met with an out-of-state partner. His administrative assistant said Monday that Mr. Robbins was out of town and wouldn't make his decision until next week.

T and Z and Associates bought the theater Jan. 28 from Rialto Theatres Inc. and Hartsville Theatres Inc. for $250,000, according to county records.

The theater has been closed since April 2001.

Mr. Robbins said last week that the land the theater sits on - almost one acre of downtown real estate - likely would be used for commercial space, with townhouses built above shops or offices.

If T and Z accepts the Aiken Corp.'s offer, it will pay the group back as the property is sold off, Mr. Brodie said.

Reach Josh Gelinas at (803)279-6895 or josh.gelinas@augustachronicle.com.



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