Blackstone Amphitheater trying to gain steam

| May 13, 2014 | 4 Comments

Amphitheater for HumanityA long-rumored, ambitious project is trying to gather some steam with an upcoming $100 per plate fundraiser next Sunday. The Blackstone Amphitheater for Humanity, led by Graciela Blackstone, is an arts project in Crownsville that, if ever built, might consist of a 6-story convention center, a 3-story office building, an amphitheater with seats for 2200, lawn seating for an additional 1200, an information center, walking trails, and the preservation of an existing farmhouse.

While the project sounds like a much needed boost to the arts community, there are some significant questions and a fair amount of competition.

Competition

While the Annapolis area is still somewhat light on hotel rooms, the four major hotels in the area–Loews Annapolis, Westin, Marriott Waterfront, Sheraton Annapolis all have significant conference facilities. Additionally, Maryland Live! is in the process of building a large hotel and conference center near the casino at Arundel Mills.  In terms of performance venues, Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts is thriving and undergoing a significant renovation, and the Maryland Theater for the Performing Arts (at Park Place) is also heating up and raising funds–they raised $41K in 24 hours by participating in the recent Great Give. MTPA will have the added benefit of a pre-existing parking garage.

Questions

Yesterday we received an invitation to the May 18th fundraiser at the Westin Annapolis. The cost is $100 per person or $250 per corporate attendee and there is to be a silent auction and other typical fundraising activities.  The invitation said that they were prepared to break ground on the project in November 2014. We checked with the County  and learned that no plans have been submitted despite claims made on the CrowdFunder website. As we dug a little deeper, more questions came to the surface.Blackstone Amphitheater

  • The project calls for “275+” parking spots which is inadequate for a project of this scope.
  • The access to the property is limited by a one way road and events will likely have a significant impact on the General’s Highway corridor; especially if one is combined with the nearby Renaissance Festival.
  • The project property sits on 6.32 acres which seems entirely too small to accommodate a project of this scope.
  • The project property is zoned residential not commercial.
  • There have been no permits applied for for the project; nor have any preliminary plans been submitted to the County for review. This property is in Anne Arundel County, not Annapolis City.
  • The property is not currently owned by Graciela Blackstone, but we understand that the owner is indeed a relative.
  • The plan states the property is a 140+ year old farm, yet property records indicate it dates back only to 1910.
  • The website states the property has been in the family for 355 years, but the property records may not support that. The property changed legal hands in 2011 and again in 1983. Earlier records are not reflected.
  • In addition to a $8,000 judgement entered against Blackstone earlier this month, she has filed for bankruptcy twice–Chapter 7 in 1998 and Chapter 13 in 2002.

The organization is a non-profit according to the IRS–the Blackstone Alliance Corporation, which is listed as a public charity, so contributions are indeed deductible. However, according to Guidestar, they have not filed the required 990-N form with the IRS however, this could be due to the fact that they are a new charity.

We contacted one of the partners involved with the project, to see if some of our questions could be addressed. The response was a more than a little vague.

Your questions are expected and valid. I assure you all is in order but it is not my place to answer them. You will know more about it after Sunday.

blackstonesupprtThe project offers support from many local politicians including Annapolis Mayor Michael Pantelides who is quoted as saying, “Outstanding for the Amphitheater for Humanity. It will bring great Tourism and Conventions to this region.​”  Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Newman (sic) is also pictured along with that same quote.

The site offers letters of support  from State Senator Ed Reilly, former Annapolis Mayor Joshua J. Cohen, former County Executive John R. Leopold, the General’s Highway Council of Civic Associations, the South River Federation, and State Delegate Cathy Vitale.

The gallery on the website has photographs of some local politicians and candidates along with photos of international business icons such as Steve Wozniak, Michael Irvin, Randi Zuckerberg, Hugh Hilton, Eric Trump, and Jack Welch. Interestingly enough, it features photos of Catherine Purple Cherry who does not appear to be the architect on this project.

Several people also recorded a video of support for the project including one man who has had meetings with the Mayor of Annapolis on the project (2:09) who has partnered on the project.

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Category: Entertainment, Local News, NEWS

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