Investor sees future in old Ritz

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 26, 2001

NATCHEZ – Baton Rouge real estate investor Burk Baker said he believes that despite damage caused by a recent roof collapse at the old Ritz Theater, the building can still be repaired and used.

But Baker has yet to commit to buying the building from owner Sam Oberlin. Baker did inspect it last week and will send roofers to Natchez to review the damage.

From last week’s inspections, Baker said he saw that &uot;the damage is pretty bad.&uot;

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&uot;The whole part (of the roof) over the stage is collapsed,&uot; he said. &uot;The air conditioning vents are on top of the seats. And in places, the roof has leaked so long the floor is rotten.&uot;

But there is still hope for the Commerce Street building, said Baker, who also bought the vacant Clark Theater next to Mainstream Fitness several years ago.

&uot;If it had a new roof on it, you could patch the rest of the floor and use it,&uot; said Bake.

Baker has said that possible uses of the Ritz Theater building – which closed as a theater about 20 years and was then used to house a jewelry store – include a restaurant and a nightclub.

In November 2000, the Natchez Historic Preservation Commission voted to declare the Ritz Theater building demolished by neglect.

Once such a ruling is handed down, a building’s owner usually has 90 days to perform repairs before misdemeanor charges are filed against him, but the Oberlins were given an extension until July 1 for their renovations.