The Milton Theatre is off the market. Just months before building was set to go on the auction block, Delaware Community Investment Corporation was approached by an unidentified cash buyer to purchase the century-old downtown Milton fixture.
The buyer's identity and the theater's price remain unknown. The sale is expected to go to closing in April.
"The property is under contract. I am not in a position to release the name of the buyer," said Jim Peffley, president of DCIC, who is out of town on business, but responded through email.
As news of the sale spread around Milton, residents, business owners and town officials were abuzz, speculating on who secretly slipped in. Dogfish Head was a common choice in the rumor mill, but Vice President Mariah Calagione said the brewery was not the buyer.
Regardless of who the buyer may be, Mayor Cliff Newlands said the economic impact will be huge if the theater reopens.
“I think it's going to draw a lot of people downtown,” he said. “It's a wonderful thing to happen to town.”
Milton Development Corp., the previous owner of the theater, alerted supporters via email Feb. 28 that the sale occurred. MDC was rallying its supporters to raise money to buy the theater back at auction in April. All money donated to MDC's effort will be refunded.
Maryellen Davis, acting president of MDC, said she learned of the sale Feb. 26. While she has not learned the identity of the buyer, she said, she has heard the buyer plans to use the theater as it is intended.
“I hear that the person who bought it is a local guy – Milton guy – who is interested in the theater,” she said. “We're hoping this person has the best interests of the town at heart.”
Davis said her initial fears were that the new owner would tear down the building or use it in a manner other than for the arts. She said she hopes the owner will be open to working with MDC to put on events. MDC will continue to host the arts around Milton, she said. A dinner-theater show with Possum Point Players is planned for Saturday, March 9, at the Bay Leaf Restaurant, and a weekend of Shakespeare is slated for April 26-27 at the Milton Fire Hall and Memorial Park.
While it doesn't appear MDC will own the Milton Theatre, Davis said, she hopes the theater will revitalize Milton's commercial district.
“It is so good for the economy to have it open and have people in there,” she said. “It's great for people to have a place to go. We need fun movies, plays, concerts and stuff like that all year long. I'm really excited about it.”