Tetreau: Community Theatre owner ignores 'reel' rescue deal
It could be a drama suited for the big screen: A local developer is ready to ride to the rescue and take over the closed Community Theatre, but the owner of the iconic downtown landmark isn't returning his calls.
A frustrated First Selectman Michael Tetreau said he's one of several people who has made multiple calls on behalf of Ken Kleban of Kleban Properties to theater owner David Pollack, all to no avail. Kleban Properties is one of the largest commercial property owners in town, including the nearby Brick Walk shopping/office complex.
"We've got a property developer willing to make the investment and sign a long-term lease and re-tool the Community to a working venue," Tetreau told the Fairfield Citizen on Wednesday. The efforts to facilitate a deal have been going on for the last nine months, he said. "We can't get the landlord to return these calls."
Calls by the Citizen to Pollack on Wednesday and Thursday were not returned. Kleban was not immediately available for comment.
The Pollack family, Tetreau said, owns multiple properties downtown and has "both supported and benefited from how well our community is doing, and yet, if this continues their family legacy will be that they destroyed the Community Theatre and all the memories our town collectively has there."
It will also, Tetreau said, hurt other businesses downtown, "and in a real sense, steals something from our community's heritage."
The movie theater closed in September 2011 after being reopened about 10 years earlier by local resident Leo Redgate. Redgate had operated the theater as a nonprofit venue, using teen volunteers. In February 2012, Pollack said he had received inquiries from several interested parties, and he hoped to sign a lease with a new tenant interested in using the property as a movie theater.
While the movie theater's marquee remains intact, inside, passing time appears to be taking its toll on the property.
In February, a passerby called 911 to report what appeared to be either smoke or steam filling the theater's lobby.
It proved to be a broken steam pipe and firefighters arrived to find a trough dug in the theater's lobby as part of repairs being made to the building's steam-heat system.
According to Building Official Tom Conley, the building, which also houses offices and storefronts, has a steam boiler beneath it, which feeds about 70 percent of the complex's heat.
"The piping system is failing," he said, and Pollack had begun repairs without a permit because the work was considered emergency repairs. "The floor was heating up," from the steam pipe that ran beneath it, Conley said.
Conley said when the town discovered the repair work, the owner was required to take out the proper permits.
"It right now needs a lot of work," Tetreau said of the Community property, adding that Kleban is willing to make that investment. "The estimate is as much as $2 million. To find somebody with a business model that will work for this has been a real challenge."
"It's one of the key pieces to the downtown," the first selectman said of the movie theater, which sits at the corner of the Post Road and Unquowa Road. "We're trying to build Fairfield into an arts and cultural destination. We have the museum, the library, FTC and restaurants all over. The missing piece -- the only blank space -- is the building that is the Community Theatre."