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Senator Theatre rejected for tax credit

A request for a state historic tax credit to help restore and renovate the Senator Theatre has been rejected by the Maryland Historical Trust, which could slow efforts to rejuvenate the landmark in North Baltimore, its new operator said Wednesday.

James “Buzz” Cusack, who is operating the Senator along with his daughter, Kathleen, said he was uncertain why the application was rejected.

“It’s a big disappointment if it’s true,” Cusack said, adding the tax credit application was made after the city turned the struggling theater over to the Cusacks this summer after it bought the property for $800,000 at a foreclosure auction in 2009.

“The tax credits would make a difference,” Cusack said, adding plans for the renovations of the theater are still being made and are expected to be ready early next year.

Rodney Little, director of the Maryland Historical Trust, said Wednesday the application from the Cusacks was incomplete when it arrived and was competing against 35 other applications.

“It came in right on the [Sept. 15] deadline, and it was deficient in a substantial number of categories, incomplete and did not meet all eligibility requirements, so it did not rank very well,” Little said.

The Senator was seeking up to $3 million in historic tax credits, Little said. The theater is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

This year, the trust had $11 million worth of tax credits to distribute. The process is highly competitive, Little said. A cap of $3 million is set for each tax credit, and the state was only able to fund nine applications fully, he added.

Buzz Cusack has said the first phase of renovations are expected to cost $450,000. Overall, the project is estimated to cost about $1.2 million.

Plans include adding wider and plusher seating and two restaurants — a crepe shop and a tapas-like restaurant —- and a smaller, 120-seat theater on the south side of the building. Cusack said one of the first moves was to install a new popcorn maker.