An interesting rumor is going around that a five-star restaurant was planned for the long vacant Martini Theatre building in the island’s downtown.
But there’s no truth to the rumor , Michael Martini, majority owner of the building at the corner of 21st and Church streets, said.
Martini this week said he still owns the building and there’s no plans for a restaurant at the site. But Martini did say he’s getting bids to replace the roof and put the original marquee back on the building. The marquee would be would be lit at night, he said.
“I’m so happy to see all the action downtown,” Martini said. Martini and family get offers occasionally for the building, but they’re too low, he said.
To demolish the building would cost about $500,000 — there’s a lot of concrete and steel — and redeveloping what was once a 990-seat movie theater also would be expensive venture.
Martini doesn’t want to demolish it and islanders have long wanted to see the art deco-style theater, built in 1937, revived. Martini has, on occasion, been at odds with the city over the building’s condition.
The building is not a protected landmark under the city’s preservation ordinance. But Martini is sentimentally attached to it, he said.
The Martini family at one time owned eight island movie theaters. But the family empire faded with the advent of TV. The Martini Theatre closed in 1975.
Although there is no new buyer for the building, Martini is in talks to lease the strip center at the site.
“I’m actively working on that,” he said.
If you had deep pockets, how would you redevelop the Martini Theatre building?