- The Washington Times - Monday, November 4, 2002

Avalon Theatre Project is rebuilding the historic movie house in the District one seat at a time.
The nonprofit group, which is behind the efforts to restore the 80-year-old building on Connecticut Avenue in Northwest, has kicked off a campaign allowing donors to purchase seats for the theater.
Responses have been pouring in since the campaign started about two weeks ago, Chairman Robert Zich said.
More than 100 seats have been sold. The price, $200 for one and $350 for a pair of 23-inch-wide seats, includes a brass plate with up to 30 letters. After the seats are installed, donors will receive letters identifying the locations of "their" seats. Those seats, however, aren't reserved for the donors when the movies start showing again; seating at the Avalon will be first-come, first-served.
The theater, scheduled to reopen in January, will have between 440 and 450 seats in the main auditorium and another 150 seats in a smaller theater.
"We have a core of very loyal supporters," said Joanne Zich, who is working on the project with her husband. "We have been enormously pleased. People are really excited about this."
The 15,800-square-foot theater closed in March 2001 after Loews Cineplex Entertainment Corp. closed it and cleared out everything, including the seats. It was Washington's oldest continuously operating movie theater before shutting down.
The Avalon Theatre Project has been working for more than a year to reopen the theater. It will cost about $650,000 to $750,000 to make that happen, Mr. Zich says. The project has received about $225,000 in gifts and pledges and is trying to secure grants from the city and from a foundation.
The effort is helped by a public-private partnership between the Avalon Theatre Project and developer and landlord Douglas Jemal, Mr. Zich says.
Mr. Jemal will contribute about half of the money to complete the project. That funding will cover much of the structural renovations and the refurbishing of the facade to its original 1922 look.
The nonprofit will pay for items like the projection equipment and the concessions stand as well as the refurbishing of the second, smaller theater.
"Our goal is to bring back the Avalon as a first-class theater," Mr. Zich has said.

Around town
Work has begun to turn the site of the US Airways Arena into a 460,000-square-foot retail and entertainment center. The "Main Street style" center in Landover, called Boulevard at the Capital Centre, will have such tenants as Borders Books and Music, Linens 'n Things and Pier 1, and is scheduled to open in fall 2003. The project is being developed by Washington Sports and Entertainment Chairman Abe Pollin and the Cordish Co. of Baltimore.
The Monarch Hotel is undergoing some changes. The Georgetown hotel, built in 1985, is being bought by Legacy Hotels Real Estate Investment Trust for more than $145 million. The transaction is expected to close early this month. In addition, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts Inc. has taken over the hotel's management. It will be renamed the Fairmont Washington, D.C., and will convert some of the existing guest rooms into Fairmont's "hotel within a hotel" product, which features private check-in, exclusive concierge services and other amenities.
Cargokids, a chain of children's furniture stores, has opened in Sterling, Va. The 5,638-square-foot store is at the Cascades Marketplace Shopping Center and has eight full- and part-time employees. Cargokids, a subsidiary of Pier 1 Imports Inc., has locations in Gaithersburg and Chantilly, Va.

Donna De Marco can be reached at 202/636-4884. Retail & Hospitality runs every other Monday.

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