As Orlando Weekly
first reported yesterday, Maitland’s Enzian Theater, in a surprise announcement, revealed it has withdrawn its application for a long-planned expansion with the City of Maitland because of the theater’s lack of confidence in its impermanent parking agreement with Park Maitland School.
Though the proposal never reached a final vote before the City Council, the Planning and Zoning Commission had recommended a yes vote to the Council. And Enzian has already raised roughly $5.5 million of the $6.5 million budgeted for the expansion. Any donor wishing a refund will get one, says Enzian board chairman Allan Keen, who also says none of the money has yet been spent.
“All of the money we spent during the [more than] two-and-half-year period we were seeking the approvals were paid from Enzian reserves, and none from donor money,” Keen says. “So all the contributions are available to be returned, in full, to the donors. A large number of donors have said they did not want their contributions back, and we are talking with each donor.”
The "Enzian Forever" expansion would have added two new screens, in addition to a new lobby, kitchen, concession area, restrooms and employees offices, though there was vocal concern from nearby residents about the expansion’s impact on traffic, parking, noise and light pollution in the neighborhood.
In a statement released today, Enzian executive director David Schillhammer explains the decision to permanently drop the plan.
“As you are aware, we have been diligently working toward Enzian’s expansion for some time,” Schillhammer says. “The City of Maitland’s parking code necessitated a long-term joint parking commitment from the Park Maitland School. Upon further consideration of the recent sale of Park Maitland to an out-of-town company [Nobel Learning Community Inc., based in Pennsylvania], and after careful review and considerable discussion, Enzian’s board of directors determined that if Enzian moves forward with our submission to the city and is granted our approvals, we would face potentially unacceptable new risks.
“Among the risks, if the school’s new owners, or its landowners, decide at any time to redevelop their site, then we would lose the use of all the additional seating we would be building with our expansion and would have to reduce operations below that which we have today to an unsustainable level. Therefore, we are regretfully withdrawing our application for this expansion with the city and must abandon our current plan to better serve Maitland and our greater community.”
Schillhammer is referring to a clause in the expansion proposal that could have forced Enzian to cease operation of its two new theaters if Park Maitland School canceled the parking agreement. But, according to Keen, the Enzian was not completely comfortable with the parking agreement even before Park Maitland’s change in ownership.
“It’s kind of a combination of [the sale] and the fact of making sure that that parking agreement was going to be permanent, and it appeared that it was not going to be permanent, and that could have happened with the current owners or the prior owners,” says Keen. “If the parking went away … then we would have to cease using those new screens, you know. It made no sense. It was just not a good decision.”
Keen says the theater plans to offer other long-term improvements, but no details have yet been provided except for renovations to the existing bathrooms and kitchen.
“There are no long-term plans at all,” Keen says. “We’re just gonna kind of sit back, take a breath and make sure that whatever we choose to do in the future will make the experience better. [Enzian is] by far the most financially sound not-for-profit in Central Florida, and the last thing we want to do is make anything to effect that.
“Enzian, its board, staff, and the Tiedtke family are deeply appreciative of the strong support from those of you who love Enzian and its mission, and the board intends to work towards making the Enzian experience even better for you, and our large base of members and supporters – for Enzian holds a very special place as a unique and highly valuable community asset, one that will continue to serve our members and film-loving Central Floridians for years to come,” Keen says.