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Proposal for Marianne Theater Calls for Condos

In the City of Bellevue's search for proposals for one of its most well-known landmarks, only one development showed up at the city building.

Last week was the deadline to answer the city's request for proposals.

"I was disappointed. I thought we would have received more interest because it's a great old building. It is a cool building," said City Administrator Frank Warnock. "And somebody with some money could do something with it if they choose to do so."

The city purchased the building in 2014 for $138,000 and has owned it since. A planned development that previously had the interest of the city fell through last year.

Warnock said city council will discuss the new proposal at its meeting on Wednesday.

The lone proposal came from Bellevue-based Brandicorp, which is also working on the redevelopment of the former Drawbridge Inn site in Fort Mitchell where Christ Hospital is looking to construct a facility as part of a mixed-use project. The plan would be for luxury condos, Warnock said.

The city administrator isn't yet sure what his recommendation to council would be, he said.

"I'm still trying to understand what would be best," Warnock said. "There is a sentiment the city should just white-box it and preserve it and make another run at it, there's a sentiment it's been off the tax rolls long enough and the city should not maintain it because it will continue to deteriorate.

"I don't have the guy with the white hat riding in to save the day at this point."

That's not to say Warnock is unhappy with the proposal of making the Marianne, an historic Art Deco movie theater constructed in the 1940s, a residential property.

"I don't think it would be the end of the world if it were luxury condos," Warnock said. "I think it would be a positive development in my opinion."

However, a public space "where people could go in the building and enjoy it such as a brewery or theater or event space" would have been preferred, he said. "But people with the checks didn't show up," Warnock said.

In recent months, the city has used the theater's marquee for messages about events and to urge drivers to watch out for pedestrians on Fairfield Avenue. "I think that the iconic facade is important for the history of the city. I think people enjoy seeing it," Warnock said. "The messaging has become popular. We change the messaging each week for events in Bellevue.

"People have asked about birthday wishes and honeymoon announcements."

Warnock does not expect any formal action from city council on Wednesday when the issue is discussed, but he expects there will be desire to preserve the facade and perhaps to ask the developer to allow the city to retain access to the marquee for messaging purposes.

City council could elect to go into executive session for a discussion on the matter, meaning council members could have conversations about the proposal privately since it involves a real estate transaction.

Bellevue city council meets Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Callahan Center behind the city building.

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher