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Elks Theatre deal falls through after potential owner 'did some due diligence'

By Dan Miller

danmiller@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 11/11/19

Elks Theatre in Middletown is back on the market.

An offer the borough received to buy the historic theater has fallen through, according to Ian Reddinger, chairman of the borough’s …

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Elks Theatre deal falls through after potential owner 'did some due diligence'

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Elks Theatre in Middletown is back on the market.

An offer the borough received to buy the historic theater has fallen through, according to Ian Reddinger, chairman of the borough’s Industrial and Commercial Development Authority, which owns the theater.

Reddinger, also a borough councilor, told the Press & Journal he was told officially Monday afternoon that the group Elk Center LLC would not go through with the purchase.

“As of now the property is back on the market. The ICDA is willing to accept all reasonable offers,” Reddinger told the Press & Journal.

He said that includes Friends of the Elks Theatre, the nonprofit group that earlier had sought to acquire the theater from the authority for $1.

Greg Rothman, an agent with RSR Realtors who was listing the property for the ICDA, confirmed for the Press & Journal that the Elks Theatre is back on the market. He did not comment further.

“I’m extremely disappointed. I was excited to see the property go back on the tax rolls. I was excited for somebody to finally give the building the tender loving care it desperately needs,” Reddinger said.

The ICDA Sept. 27 had voted to accept an offer from Elk Center LLC to purchase the 108-year old theater from the authority for $200,000, minus the authority providing Elk Center LLC with a $15,000 credit for the theater not being connected to public water and sewer lines.

Reddinger said he did not know for certain why the sale did not go through.

“From what I believe, they (Elk Center LLC) had financing issues. I believe they were having issues securing financing,” he said.

Reddinger said he was also looking forward to the borough receiving the $185,000 for the theater. Reddinger saw some of that money going into a new rainy-day emergency fund council had created at the urging of Councilor Robert Reid.

But Reddinger said he was also hoping to see some of the money go toward improvements at Hoffer Park, including building a bandshell.

Reddinger said those ideas are his alone, and that council as a whole has made no decisions concerning what to do with proceeds from sale of the theater.

A public record search traced Elk Center LLC — an entity created on Sept. 23, according to Pennsylvania Department of State records — to Ameritech Media Corp., a company based in an office building on Linglestown Road in Harrisburg.

Dustin Foreman, identified in Department of State records as the president of Ameritech Media Corp., told the Press & Journal in an Oct. 4 email that he was declining comment but pledged to “keep you in the loop” regarding Elk Center LLC.

He provided the Press & Journal with a link to www.elkcenter.com, a website people could sign up for to receive updates, but no updates were posted.

A call to Ameritech Media seeking comment from Foreman was not immediately returned.

Since the Sept. 27 meeting, comment from RSR had been referred to Roy H. Brenner, a broker with Landmark Commercial Realty.

“He did some due diligence and has decided not to move forward,” Brenner told the Press & Journal when asked for comment regarding the deal with Elk Center LLC falling through.

The theater was listed for sale for the ICDA by RSR in December 2018, with an asking price of $300,000. The offer from Elk Center LLC was the only one that had been received for the theater, according to Reddinger.

A former ICDA not including Reddinger or any of the authority’s current members closed the Elks Theatre for renovations in 2015. The theater has not opened since.

Prior to its closing, the Elks Theatre was considered the second longest continuously operating cinema in the United States, according to the Friends of the Elks, a nonprofit organization and successor to the now defunct Greater Middletown Economic Development Corp., which last operated the theater while leasing it from the former authority.

The current authority chaired by Reddinger decided to put the theater up for sale in May 2018, after the authority could not work out an agreement with Friends of the Elks to transfer the theater to the group for $1.

The Friends group had proposed renovating and reopening the theater as part of a performing arts center.

Listing of the property was delayed until the authority could find a new Realtor — RSR — and reach an agreement with RSR.

The ICDA’s agreement with RSR calls for RSR to receive a 7 percent commission on sale of the Elks Theatre.

Mayor James H. Curry III, also a member of the ICDA, did not respond to a request for comment.