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Auburn Schine Theater 1

The auditorium of the Auburn Schine Theater in May.

The Auburn Schine Theater is now officially the property of Bowers Development, of Syracuse.

Bowers and the downtown theater's prior owner of 20 years, the Cayuga County Arts Council, closed on the sale Friday, arts council Communications Chair Michelle Milewski said in a news release.

"2018 was a very productive year for the Schines Theater," she said in the release. "Before the transfer of ownership, the CCAC was able to make significant progress in the restoration of the theater before putting it in the best hands to finish the project."

The council received permission from the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to sell the 1938 art deco theater to Bowers in June. Because the council has accepted grant money from the state to fund the theater's restoration, the sale could not take place without the office's approval. The Schine's historic preservation covenant, which prevents its owner from making any changes to it without the office's approval, will transfer to Bowers as a condition of the sale. The covenant expires on July 25, 2036.

Bowers, owned by President Bryan Bowers, bought the building for $15,000 through the entity Schines Theater LLC. The council bought it in 1998 for $26,000 in back taxes owed to the city. According to Cayuga County records, the property's current assessed value is $206,000.

The developer's sale agreement with the council was provided to The Citizen by the state historic preservation office in July. It notes that Bowers plans to apply for a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement for the Schine's restoration. If Bowers doesn't obtain the PILOT, the document continues, the developer would have the right to sell the theater back to the council, and the council would be obligated to buy it back. 

Bowers has received $3 million — $800,000 through the city's Community Development Block Grant program, $1 million through the Restore NY Communities Initiative and $1.2 million through the Central New York Regional Economic Development Council — to support the theater's restoration. The block grant money went toward remediation of the Schine's hazardous materials at the beginning of the year. In August, arts council board Chair Ed Onori said Bowers was waiting for disbursement of the Restore NY funds to begin work on the theater's South Street marquee. That and its heating, ventilating and air conditioning system are the project's next priorities, Milewski said.

Bowers has previously said the Schine's restoration will cost $6 million and finish by October 2019. 

Bryan Bowers was not immediately available for comment.

Speaking Friday, Onori said that the arts council will continue to work with Bowers on matters like public relations and, when the theater is restored, programming. The specific nature of the council's role in the project has yet to be finalized, he said, but it will have some sort of "seat at the table."

Onori added that the council will soon begin talking about resuming some of the responsibilities it had before it bought the Schine, such as funding local arts and programming.

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Features editor for The Citizen.