Four months ago developer Louis Salomonsky purchased a home on Westminster Avenue in Bellevue, and he’s already busy with plans for preservation of the old Bellevue Theatre on MacArthur Avenue. He also envisions a historic district for the neighborhood.
“The most important objective is to do something with the Bellevue Theatre,” he told me recently. Seated with us was Bill Thomas, active trustee for Samis Grotto, which owns the Bellevue Theatre.
According to Louis, their joint vision includes creating a plaza-like setting in front of the old theatre. “Potentially it would have umbrellas and seating areas, and would become kind of the town square of Bellevue,” Louis said. “It would be a pleasant place to go and sit down and enjoy life.”
At this point, neither Louis nor Bill is quite sure exactly what the theatre would be used for. “In a perfect world it would continue to be some place of assembly,” Louis suggested. “Perhaps, having weekends with theatre performances, live theatre or film. There’s no reason why banquets or wedding parties couldn’t be held there.”
This project will be financially feasible only if there are historic tax credits, and both Louis and Bill don’t think the old theater will qualify as an historic structure on its own.
“Bill and I have learned it would be virtually impossible to get the theatre to be designated an historic building in its own independent right,” Louis said.
Which is why Louis is proposing that Bellevue become an historic district. He is careful to point out he would be looking for either a state or federal historic designation. “If it’s a city of Richmond historic district, I consider that a painful process,” he said. “If you get into a federal or state historic district the requirements are minimal and reasonable.”
Bill Thomas wants to ensure that the Bellevue Theatre is preserved. “With Louis’s guidance the whole city of Richmond will be proud of,” he said. “And I think it’s a key to the redevelopment of the area and it’s going to help upgrade and stabilize everything on MacArthur Avenue. We want to share it with the public. The MacArthur merchants have been supportive of us and we’ve tried to be very supportive of them, and we’re going to continue to be there for the neighborhood.