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Avalon Cinema For Sale

August 27, 2009 Real Estate, South City 19 Comments

The long-closed Avalon Cinema is finally for sale.  For years people have said the 1930s structure was an eyesore that should be razed.

Thankfully it has avoided the fate of so many other fine buildings.  The property at 4225 S. Kingshighway is listed at $1,000,000 by Bjaye Greer of Realty Exchange. The owner is finally convinced to sell:

Inside the pitch-black carcass of the Avalon Cinema, the windows are boarded up and the electricity has been shut off since it closed its doors on South Kingshighway Boulevard nine years ago. The faint sound of dripping water is audible, and junk lies strewn across the floors of the building — ruined reels of film, broken projector parts, a shopping cart and a filthy mattress.

Amid the squalor, the building’s owner, Greg Tsevis, navigates the darkened stairs and crawl spaces with the ease afforded by 30 years of familiarity, oblivious to the ruin around him.  (Riverfront Times July 2007)

The building includes land with 200 feet of frontage along South Kingshighway – a substantial length.

The West face of South Kingshighway at Chippewa (map link) is mostly intact.  The parking lot adjacent to the Avalon was there in a 1958 photograph.

I’d like to see a new building be built adjacent to the Avalon with street-level retail, offices and/or residential units and structured parking.  Basically it would be structured parking at the rear of the site with a thin face at the street.  I haven’t done a proforma to see how the numbers work out.  My focus is to create a nice wall of building fronts along the sidewalk line so that the area is more connected and friendly to pedestrians.

Source: Google Street View
Source: Google Street View

The garage on Delmar (left above), across from the Tivoli Theater, still looks like a garage with the open second floor.  But I’d take it on South Kingshighway next to the Avalon as a compromise to having occupied space at the front on the 2nd level.  A 3rd floor would be excellent and in keeping with nearby buildings.

The first step that needs to be taken is to develop a form-based zoning code for the area that would guide future development.   This would give developers an assurance that any adjacent development would also take on an urban form.

Further Reading

– Steve Patterson


Currently there are "19 comments" on this Article:

  1. Jimmy Z says:

    The time for applying form-based zoning to this site and/or this corridor was during the decades where nothing was happening. Now that it’s on the market, I’d expect any buyer to move quickly to get whatever they want built using the existing city requirements. And, unfortunately, I don’t see any market for either saving the existing structure nor for doing a traditional urban structure up against the sidewalk. And if it were on the corner, I could see CVS jumping on it; they still might . . .

    But, if you really want to “fix” this block, the way to make your pro forma work would be to include the Jack in the Box on the corner of Chippewa and the two smaller buildings. That way you could keep the Avalon’s facade and be able to work with a big-enough “clean sheet” to justify not just doing another box in a parking lot.

  2. Ryley says:

    The neighborhoods surrounding the Avalon are really some of the cities best. The Avalon and any other derelict properties in this area are unnecessary cancers taking away from other community successes (like Mac Ave.).

    Anything would be better than that rotting movie house. Well anything but another freaking payday loan outfit.

  3. Steve, read my post here to see why the owner may not legally be able to close a sale of the Avalon.

  4. Fenian says:

    What a sad situation.

    The former tenant, who ran the Avalon theater, repeatedly tried to buy this property. The owner refused the seller for years and now it has fallen into a state of disrepair. $1 million is definitely too much to ask considering the condition of the property.

  5. Fenian says:

    Correction: I meant to say the owner refused the potential buyer.

  6. Dennis says:

    This eyesore is within a couple blocks of my home. I wish someone would bulldoze it down so something else could be built there. It’s totally beyond repair. I’m all for rehabbing and historic preservation but some places have just reached a point where they are nothing but a hazardous eyesore and not worth saving. This is one of them.

    [slp — the building is not too far gone and is totally worth saving. The adjacent land included in the price leaves room to build more space as well as parking to support the renovated theater.]

  7. Brian S. says:

    That asking price is WAY too high.

  8. Bill says:

    My choice for building to save on the south side. Too bad that basically the $1M price is a joke. It might as well not be for sale.

  9. Jp says:

    When I heard the price a few weeks ago I thought “what a bummer. It’s going to sit empty for several more years.” In a good real estate economy this is too high. 500k seems high considering it needs 500k in renovation. So I’ll repeat it: What a bummer.

  10. Jp says:

    Having said all that, if I had super deep pockets I would love this as a project.

  11. Becker says:

    I’ve dreamed of rehabbing this place for a while now. The price is ridiculous though and I bet the cost of rehabbing it would go even above 500,000. It is especially unlikely to see anyone pay that much for it when they could just wait for the city to seize it and buy it off the LRA for $1.

    Personally I think a rehabbed Avalon could be a focal point for the neighborhood. There is a lot of strip mall nonsense going on around there and an Alamo Drafthouse style funky destination theater is just what the area needs to add some character.

  12. Joe says:

    If the owner of an empty, unused building like this believes it’s worth $1,000,000, then the city should immediately adjust the property taxes to reflect this reality. That simple approach would likely alter the picture drastically, in hundreds of similar such cases throughout the city.

    Owners of vacant property like this would be driven to arrive at a realistic sale price, and in a manner that couldn’t be viewed as anything other than fair and reasonable.

  13. Jimmy Z says:

    And for a more-realistic comp: 3300 SOUTH KINGSHIGHWAY (the old Dodge dealership)
    Automobile Dealership on 3.75 Acres that could be Redeveloped Comprised of a Showroom, Office. (Constructed in 2002.) Plus Other Buildings, Two (2) Drive-Thru Vehicle Service Bays, Served by Heavy Electrical, Air, Water Lines & Trench Drains. Fenced, Paved, Striped and Lighted Lot

    Area: 40,392 sq. ft.
    Lease Rate: $15,000.00 per month, NNN
    Sale Price: $2,495,000.00
    Sale Price by Ft: $61.75


  14. Those who say it’s not really for sale are right. The owner is a defunct corporation whose trustees are deceased. Greg Tsevis is not an officer, board member or trustee of the corporation that owns the parcel — thus he cannot sell the building. The city filed suit to be named successor so that the Avalon can be sold. This “sale” is part of a shell game to avoid the city winning a favorable judgment. Those who are truly interested in buying should hope that the city can get title and issue an RFP. The theater has a long way to go until it’s too far gone — the damage is largely cosmetic, and the roof _structure_ is steel.

  15. Travis says:

    The Avalon is definately not worth a million dollars. Greg has mentioned numerous ridiculous prices over the years. He always thought some big box store would take out the neighborhood behind the theatre, but that never happened.

    I met with the city in 2000 or 2001 about keeping the theatre and reopening as a three screen similar to the Tivoli. The problems are that the theatre has closed and is now required to meet all current electrical, plumbing, ADA, etc requirements. There’s no way to renovate for $500,000. I had figures back then for $750,000-1 million and the roof was still intact!

    I can only imagine what that poor building looks like now. Greg isn’t a real estate speculator. He’s a person that’s not mentally competant to own and care for property. This is a perfect example of a good use of eminant domain. Unfortunately, due to past overuse of eminant domain, it’s difficult to take it away.

  16. insider says:

    What do people think would be a fair price under eminent domain for this property? Travis, what’s vacant commercial land in this area worth? What about derelict buildings? Can’t imagine this place bringing any more than $250,000 from a qualified, informed buyer in an arms length transaction.

    Under eminent domain, it’d probably bring double that. Opponents of eminent domain really don’t understand the economics of how the system works. In 90% of the cases, the government OVERPAYS for property. A forced sale through eminent domain is the best deal most landowners could ever get.

    I’ve lost count of the number of property owners left crying in their beers when their eminent domain sales fell apart. They were ready to cash in and move into a nicer house. Tsevis is holding out right now for eminent domain. He knows he’ll make more money that way.

    Which really begs the question….would the city be better off citing him for code violations, etc, and not offering to purchase? If the city made it abundantly clear that it only plans to cite the owner/property for ordinance violations and not ever acquire the property under any circumstances (except an LRA foreclosure), maybe Tsevis would wise up and get real in his efforts to sell the building on the open market?

  17. PT says:

    Ald Gregali’s ward, right? There are plenty of bldgs like this under his “watchful eye.” Those barracades are NOT to keep people from entering the bldg…they’re there to keep people AWAY from falling brick and facade I think Gregali actually likes buildings like this. See the Morganford/Chippewa intersection. I think he ownes the empty Bevo Mill now too, right? (I know he does’t actually OWN it) Will that be the next Avalon? The Avalon is a great example of what happens when you speed thru redlights(without paying a fine like everyone else) more than you focus on improving the lives of residents and businesses that elected you. If nothing changes…..nothing changes. He’s up for election next year. Anyone interested?

  18. Travis says:

    I don’t think Greg is holding out for eminant domain. I think he’s mentally incapable of coming to an agreement to sell this place. In the years that I have spoken with him, the value of the property has gone from 500,000 to 1.5 million and back down to the current 1 million.

    The car dealership might be usable to someone as it sits unlike the Avalon. Maybe it’s worth 500,000. You either have to pay a lot for demolition or an ungodly amount to renovate. I would love to see the Avalon saved as a theatre, but the numbers don’t work. Joe Edwards bought the Tivoli building for 500,000 in 1994. I’d rather be there with a similar sized lot than in south city near five or so pay day loan shops. I am not trying to knock south city, but be realistic at what a businessman can spend and what the neighborhood will support.

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