Camelot Theatre, Talent officials negotiate over land

Correction: The headline on this story has been changed to reflect ongoing negotiations more accurately.

Camelot Theatre officials want to retain part of their current site for a new or relocated theater building, while the Talent Urban Renewal Agency wants the entire theater parcel for a West Valley View Road realignment project.

"We responded to the last offer with a request. I don't know how they will respond," said theater board president Ted Gibbs. "If they respond negatively, then we will have to deal with the situation and make a decision at that point."

Camelot wants to keep about 12,000 square feet of the northeastern part of its more than half-acre lot, Gibbs said. The realignment, which would link West Valley View directly to Main Street, would move the joined streets a little further west under the plan, he said.

Agency officials and theater representatives have been in negotiations since May when TURA offered Camelot $457,000 for its building and land. Since that time the agency's board of directors has met in executive session nearly monthly to discuss real estate negotiations.

TURA director Marla Cates said the agency could not comment on the proposal because the two groups are still in negotiations.

"Things are very indeterminate. We've had a number of offers and counter offers," said Gibbs.

"The options are either new construction or moving the old theater and bringing it up to code, which may be our least expensive option," Gibbs said. "We haven't had anyone look at the structure to find out if it's in a condition to do that."

Another problem with a move is that the theater might need to be out of production for a considerable period of time with potential loss of income, said Gibbs. Raising funds for a new building would be a challenge in the current economic climate, he added.

"From what we understand, with connections with others in similar circumstances, I think everyone in the valley is experiencing this kind of downturn," said Gibbs. "Our expectations to raise a significant amount of money with a capital campaign are pretty slim."

Under TURA's original proposal, Camelot would have had the right to lease the building back while its board explored relocation options if it was sold. Camelot and agency officials have held discussions with the Sullivan family, which owns a vacant lot immediately north of the present site. Under the new proposal Camelot would not need any of the Sullivan land.

Traffic would go directly from West Valley View to Main with the realignment. Currently motorists must travel a few hundred feet on Talent Avenue to get from one thoroughfare to the other.

Other property owners who would be affected have been notified that their properties would be appraised. Cates said negotiations with those owners should begin in the near future.

Preliminary plans showed a roundabout where the extension of Main would intersect with West Valley View and, in a later phase, extension of Wagner Street.

"We don't need a roundabout as a traffic control device," said Cates. "We've looked at a couple of other free-flowing intersections that would function as a roundabout if not exactly round."

Cates said she is still hopeful that work can get started in 2011. The agency will issue bonds to cover construction. They would be repaid by revenues generated from increased assessments due to previous urban renewal improvements.

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at tboom8929@charter.net.

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