MONTCLAIR, NJ — When plans were announced to save the Bellevue Theater in Montclair, it raised a cry of joy throughout the township. But the renovation of the beloved local landmark is now on “intermission,” and may become yet another business casualty of the coronavirus pandemic, reports say.
After the lease of former tenant Bow Tie Cinemas expired in 2017, community members rallied to save the Bellevue Theater, which first opened almost a century ago. Pushing to prevent the venue from “wasting away into another gentrified retail or office space,” nearly 6,000 people signed an online petition to keep the venue open.
Their wishes took a huge leap towards becoming reality when owner Jesse Sayegh signed a new lease with a group dedicated to returning the theater to its former glory. The company’s backers included some big names in show business, including producer Luke Parker Bowles and actor Patrick Wilson, both of whom are Montclair residents, as well as real estate developer Steven Plofker, Montclair Local stated.
But on Friday, the group announced that it hit a major speed bump, Baristanet reported. They wrote:
“After three years of planning its revival, we are saddened to announce we are unable to proceed with the redevelopment of The Bellevue Theater in Upper Montclair, N.J. Unfortunately, after a significant amount of time and money was invested, we could not come to an agreement with the theater’s current owner. Understanding the present state of the world, we have concluded that this is an intermission – not an end. It has been an honor to breathe life into such a historical part of the Montclair community, and by no means are we saying goodbye. Our team has a number of exciting projects in the pipeline, and we are still hopeful that we will conclude this one someday. We are thankful to our partners, investors and ultimately, the community of Montclair for their support throughout this project and we look forward to bringing cinema back to Montclair in the future.”
Parker-Bowles told NorthJersey.com that the investor group, Bellevue Enterprises, was not successful in negotiating new lease terms with Sayegh.
“It’s upsetting we don’t have a lease, but there’s no animosity,” he said. “Jesse has to make a living. With COVID, people are having a tough time keeping themselves in business.”
The group formally withdrew their application before the Zoning Board of Adjustment on Jan. 5. Sayegh has since said that he’s considering a residential and retail project with a theater on the ground level, Montclair Local reported.
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This article originally appeared on the Montclair Patch