By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Feb 01, 2005 at 5:36 AM

{image1}Word on KK Avenue is that the Avalon Theater, 2469-83 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., which has been a centerpiece of Bay View's renewal hopes for a number of years, is being sold to an investor who plans to lease the theater to Landmark and offer retail space to Schwartz Bookshops.

But if a change is imminent, interested parties are remaining tight-lipped, and while it seems clear that Schwartz and Landmark have looked at the Avalon, the sale of the building remains little more than a rumor that's gaining momentum among neighborhood businesses.

“We’re just looking, it doesn’t really mean anything,” said Deb Tzortzos, Landmark’s Midwest district manager, of Landmark's interest in the Avalon. “We looked and that’s it. I don’t have anything to tell, really. I guess it’s ‘no comment,’ since there isn’t anything to say.” Tzortzos also said that Landmark generally doesn't buy theaters, preferring instead to lease them.

Craig Ellsworth, of Avalon Investments, which owns the building, refused to comment when reached via telephone.

Schwartz Bookshops considered opening a Bay View location in 1999, when late owner A. David Schwartz looked at the Avalon building before opting instead to open a Racine location. However, a source, who requested anonymity, said although the company has been scouting Bay View locations, the Avalon location is far from a done deal and other locations are still being considered.

Schwartz CEO and Vice President Mary McCarthy would also not go on record about Schwartz's efforts to find a Bay View location.

The Avalon ceased showing films in 2000. After a number of deals to re-open the Avalon as a movie theater or as a concert venue failed, it appeared a done deal that the building would be converted into office space, quashing the hopes of neighborhood residents dreaming of a renovated movie palace in Bay View.

The Avalon Theater, the city's last remaining atmospheric movie house (with twinkling lights in the ceiling to recreate an outdoor vibe) was designed by Milwaukee architect, and Frank Lloyd Wright disciple, Russ Barr Williamson. It was built in 1929.

Calls to Landmark's Los Angeles headquarters were not returned by press time.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.