Traverse City Record-Eagle

September 10, 2013

Bijou marquee concept gets a 'no' from Traverse City commissioners

By BRIAN McGILLIVARY bmcgillivary@record-eagle.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Traverse City Film Festival officials withdrew their request to have flashing lights on their Bijou by the Bay movie theater but city commissioners still found the proposed marquee unacceptable.

Commissioners objected to the proposed marquee on the former Con Foster Museum because it would obscure where Con Foster is engraved into the front of the historic city-owned building in Clinch Park. Several commissioners said they were clear in the beginning that they didn't want the exterior of the historic building altered nor the engraving blocked.

"I thought that was crystal clear," said commissioner Barbara Budros, who called the proposed marquee "very unacceptable."

Film Festival president and founder Michael Moore announced Monday he was withdrawing his request to amend the city's sign ordinance to allow moving and flashing lights on theater marquee. Festival officials cited opposition by city commissioners and residents' cold reception to flashing lights on the bay front.

Festival officials expected the marquee to be pulled from the city commission's Monday agenda and didn't attend the meeting.

Deb Lake, Film Festival executive director, said they don't want to obscure Con Foster, the former mayor responsible for Clinch Park who also managed what is now Film Festival's State Theatre.

"We think the Con Foster link is so cool, we want to celebrate Con Foster," Lake said.

The proposed marquee is about 15 feet wide, 10 feet deep, and eight feet high but would not attach to the building, so the engraving would still be visible from various angles, Lake said. They also will seek historic district commission approval to carve the Con Foster name on the side of the building facing Grandview Parkway; attach a historic plaque, and put together an exhibit about Con Foster and the museum inside the lobby.

But the Film Festival plans also call for construction of a vestibule under the marquee. The vestibule would attach to the building to give the theater a second set of doors to make it more energy efficient.

City staff knew of the vestibule plans but several city commissioners, including Mayor Michael Estes, were left in the dark.

"There is some type of breakdown in communication here," Estes said. "I had no idea that was part of their proposal."

Estes said any changes to the exterior of the building or anything that goes beyond the parameters of their management agreement with the Film Festival needs to come back to the city commission.

Lake said they are happy to speak with the commissioners about any concerns they may have. She doesn't expect it to delay the planned reopening of the Bijou on Oct. 11.