The Raleigh Playhouse and Theatre on Neville Street has been listed for sale at $1.4 million, owner Matt Bickey confirmed Wednesday.

The Bickey family has listed the 199-seat theatre with REALTOR Lisa Armes of Old Colony Realty.

"It's a situation where that building is wholly owned by one of our other companies," Bickey said. "That company put up most of the money to do the renovations. We put it up for sale so we can get that cash for the sale back into our company, that footed all the expenses."

The Bickey family invested $2.7 million into renovating the historic building, according to Bickey. The building was once home to Silver Brand Men's Store. 

Matt's father, the late Dan Bickey, was the founder and owner of Mine Power Systems, Inc., an industrial battery distributorship and battery charger manufacturer.

Before his death in 2014, Dan Bickey invested at least $9 million in buying and renovating a number of downtown buildings, including the Bair building, the Farris Department Store, the Marie Conway Millinery and the F.W. Grant building, along with the former Beckley Post Office (now the IRS annex) on N. Kanawha Street

According to his obituary, Dan had met the love of his life, Cynthia Morrison Bickey, when she was working at the box office of the Beckley theater. The two were married in 1967 and had four children. Much of Dan's investment in downtown Beckley was because of his love of his family, according to his obituary.

The Raleigh was opened in 2012, and Dan had seen the historic theater as a centerpiece to the revival of downtown Beckley.

For the last few years, The Raleigh seemed to have been emerging as a mainstay of a burgeoning arts scene in Beckley. The stage has hosted shows produced by The WV Collective and Theatre West Virginia.

It had been on the verge of closure in November 2019, when Matt Bickey announced that financial considerations was forcing his family to close The Raleigh.

The City of Beckley, with city officials citing a vested interest in keeping the renovated building occupied and open, entered a lease agreement with Bickey, after Beckley Common Council voted in favor of the lease in January 2020. Under the terms of the agreement, the City of Beckley paid $36,000 to cover the cost of the annual lease, which was $3,000 monthly.

The city also hired Shane Pierce to manage events at the theater, under the leadership of Parks and Recreation Director Leslie Baker.

Covid struck three months after Council approved the lease, closing most shows at The Raleigh. 

Mayor Rob Rappold on Wednesday said Bickey has charged the city $1,500 per month since Covid considerations led to the closures of shows.

Rappold said Wednesday that the city would like to continue leasing The Raleigh, despite any sale of the building.

"My hope would be that, if it is sold, and we have heard that there is an interested buyer with a musical background who would likely continue the theater to attract various performers, and we would be one thousand percent in favor of that," Rappold added. "If a truly interested buyer comes along and wishes to maintain the theater as a theater to attract performances that enhance downtown Beckley, and our growing reputation as a cultural center, I'm one thousand percent in favor of that.

"We would be very flexible with the lease," the mayor added. "We would not hold up a legitimate deal for the sake of having that lease."

The lease will expire on Dec. 31, 2021, and will be renegotiated then, if the building is not sold, he reported.

"I was thrilled when the city decided to rent it, so it didn't go dark all this time," Bickey said Wednesday. "Shane Pierce is doing a tremendous job, I think, doing the best he can, in these circumstances.

"Hopefully things are going to be brighter in the future."

Bickey said he has had two buyers, including one promising local buyer, to express interest in purchasing the theater. He said he has not yet entered into a contract with a buyer.

He noted that it is common in real estate deals for the seller of the building to offer a lessee a "right of refusal," which gives the lessee an opportunity to "match" any deal the seller may be offered.

The mayor said the city has not made an offer to purchase the theater. 

The City of Beckley purchased the former Black Knight Country Club in 2018 for $3 million from Gov. Jim Justice and turned it into a public golf course, pool and events venue, under Baker's direction.

Most recently, council approved the purchase of the former Zen's building, which Dan Bickey had once owned, from Jenny Weng for over $1 million. The sale included the Neville Street building and two lots on the opposite side of Neville.

Investors who are interested in The Raleigh may call Armes at 304-890-2388.  

 

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