Traverse City Record-Eagle

September 16, 2013

Third try the charm for Bijou?

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

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — A proposed theater marquee for the converted Con Foster Museum building that twice was pulled twice from Traverse City Commission agendas is back for review.

City commissioners and Traverse City Film Festival officials will attempt to resolve the city's concerns about the marquee today at 7 p.m. in the Governmental Center.

The Film Festival proposal calls for a large, lighted theater marquee at the front of the building now known as the Bijou by the Bay, after the nonprofit group converted the historical building into a movie house.

But confusion among festival and city staff left the marquee issue hanging since a July board of zoning appeals meeting. City commissioners took control of the issue Sept. 9 when they told staff they would make the final decision.

"I like the people at the Film Festival; they saved Con Foster from the wrecking ball," said Mayor Michael Estes. "But this is a public park, a public building and it needs to be the commission's decision."

Film Festival President Michael Moore initially wanted moving, flashing lights similar to the Film Festival's State Theatre on Front Street for the Bijou marquee. Flashing lights would require an amendment to the city's sign ordinance, so it was scheduled to go before the city commission. Moore withdrew the request after hearing of opposition from the public and city commissioners to moving lights.

Festival officials expected city staff to grant approval, but city commissioners expressed their displeasure and staff put it back on their agenda.

Several commissioners appear open to the marquee, as long as it doesn't have flashing lights.

"The deal breaker was the moving lights, but that's gone," Commissioner Mike Gillman said. "Now I'll wait to see their latest proposal. It seems to be a moving target."

Other commissioners have concerns.

Commissioner Barbara Budros doesn't want the marquee to obscure the Con Foster engraving on the building and wants festival officials to explain all of their plans, including a proposed vestibule on the front of the building to improve energy efficiency.

Mayor Michael Estes wants to know how bright the marquee lights will be.

"This is not Las Vegas," Estes said. "Michael (Moore) has a vision but I'm not sure it coincides with what the city wants, and once this decision is made, it's done.