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Rumors of Avalon Theater sale abound ... again

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.


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