ROANOKE RAPIDS, N.C. — The Chicago businessman who has agreed to buy the troubled Roanoke Rapids Theatre is holding off on closing the deal as he attempts to acquire surrounding property, city officials said Wednesday.
Roanoke Rapids agreed in November to sell the music theater to Lafayette Gatling for $7.1 million in cash.
Attorney H. Lawrence Armstrong said Gatling is negotiating with developers to buy some land near the theater for projects that could include a water park, movie theater or restaurants.
Roanoke Rapids Mayor Emery Doughtie said the deal for the theater is moving forward, and he said he hopes to have a signed deal soon.
Roanoke Rapids borrowed $21.5 million in 2005 to build the theater along Interstate 95 to attract tourists and help boost the economy. Local taxpayers are now paying nearly $2 million a year in borrowing and operating costs.
The city will still have to pay about $12 million on the property after the sale, but Doughtie has said the city would be able to refinance the remaining debt to make it more manageable.
Several years ago, Gatling entered into a $12.5 lease-purchase agreement for the theater, but the city terminated it in 2010 when Gatling failed to pay more than $500,000 in back rent.