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Bedford Playhouse Site At Critical Juncture Amid Turnover

The Bedford Playhouse building in downtown Bedford Village.
The Bedford Playhouse building in downtown Bedford Village. Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie

BEDFORD, N.Y. -- Just days into the new year, the Bedford Playhouse site underwent a shake up, as movie-theater operator Bow Tie Cinemas made its departure.

The stakes are high, as the property's landlord, Kenneth Horn's Alchemy Bedford, is seeking to fill the space as soon as possible in order to plug the revenue gap that the operator's exit left. Meanwhile, the group Friends of Bedford Playhouse has embarked on a fundraising campaign to secure $2.5 million in pledges to pay for renovation work in the theater, which includes replacing the current twinned screen configuration with a mix of larger and smaller viewing spaces.

A March 1 funding deadline was agreed to by Horn and John Farr , a Bedford resident and movie buff who helped launch the friends group.

Discussing the deadline's purpose, Horn explained that rental income is needed in order to keep the property operational. Horn's preference is for there to be another theater tenant -- Alchemy Bedford donated to Farr's group to help with start up costs -- but explained that he will fill the space with retail if he cannot get one.

Alchemy Bedford bought the property, which is at 633- 647 Old Post Road in 2013 for $8.1 million, according to town records. The company is an affiliate of Alchemy Properties, a New York City development company that Horn founded. Both companies are owned by Horn.

Aside from needing to keep the property operational, Alchemy Bedford has mortgage debt to pay.

County records show that during the same month as the purchase, the company agreed to having $5.25 million in principal mortgage debt as part of a deal with New York Community Bank. The records show that the amount included a new mortgage, which had a principal balance of more than $1.5 million, along with existing debt that the company assumed. The latter consolidated amount had an unpaid principal of more than $3.6 million.

Horn, in an interview with Daily Voice, ruled out the possibility of his company defaulting on the debt, saying there is "no danger."

The vacancy of the theater space is not the only major change at the site. The same week that Bow Tie Cinemas closed up, the Meetinghouse restaurant next door was sold to local couple, Mitchell and Lynn Samberg, who are giving it the new name of Bedford 234 and plan to reopen it later this year.

Horn also spoke positively when discussing the restaurant's change.

Meanwhile, Farr raised the possibility of a "purchase option," a scenario involving a group of people buying the theater space from Alchemy Bedford, which would still own the rest of the property. Horn, in an interview, explained that he is open to the scenario if it is economical.

The purchase is one of two scenarios Farr named, with leasing the space being the other.

One matter that has fallen in priority due to the theater vacancy is a proposal to develop a vacant part of the site for retail, housing and parking. Horn, who unveiled a preliminary iteration last July , eventually plans to submit an application to the town but explained that what would be included hasn't been decided.

Farr is scheduled to give an update on his group's work on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Katonah Village Library.

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