Traverse City Record-Eagle

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April 9, 2013

City fast tracks Film Fest's Con Foster proposal

TRAVERSE CITY — The city commission agreed to fast track a proposal to let the Traverse City Film Festival convert the long-vacant Con Foster Museum into a 150-seat movie house.

Commissioners instructed City Manager Ben Bifoss to negotiate a 10-year contract with the Film Festival at $1 a year for use of the building at Clinch Park. The non-profit Film Festival will invest an estimated $800,000 into a historic, city-owned building that sat vacant for almost a decade. It will use it as a sister venue to its State Theatre to show daily movies year-round. The commission’s overwhelming support during Monday’s study session didn’t surprise Deb Lake, Film Festival executive director.

“It’s such a home-run idea and I think people are ready for the Bijou by the Bay in the Con Foster Museum,” Lake said.

Several commissioners expressed concerns about what condition the building would be left in if the Film Festival’s expansion doesn’t work. To accommodate the largest screen possible, the Film Festival will dig out the floor to give it a movie-house slope. It also wants to remove the seats and all movie equipment and movie fixtures if it leaves the property.

“I don’t want to see it turned back into a dump,” Commissioner Barbara Budros said.

Lake said they would return the building in as good a shape or better and level the floor.

The city received an estimate Monday that it will cost more than $800,000 to update the museum itself into a plain, useable space with bathrooms. Estes said at the least they would have new bathrooms and updated systems in the building.

Lake portrayed the second movie screen not as a risk but as a way to help cement the economic future of the State Theatre.

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