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City Sues Over Avalon Theater, Oddball Owner Still MIA

Greg Tsevis.jpg
Greg Tsevis in front of the Avalon Theatre in July 2007
Heather Ratcliffe reports in the Post-Dispatch today that the City has filed a lawsuit hoping to take control of the old Avalon Theatre on South Kingshighway.

The building, condemned in 2006, was originally built in 1935 as an old-school "movie palace" that seated 650 people. Over the years it went through a number of ownership changes, finally ending up in the hands of Clayton resident Greg Tsevis before going out of business in 1999. Since then it has sat vacant and slowly decayed.

I reported on Tsevis' dispute with alderman Stephen Gregali over the theatre back in July of 2007. Tsevis, a noted recluse, agreed to be interviewed and took me on a tour of the theater. The inside was an absolute mess, full of bird poop, mildew damage, and filthy mattresses. As for Tsevis himself, he was as unkempt as his derelict property and rambled about conspiracy theories being plotted by the city against him.

In her story today, Ratcliffe reports that Tsevis is now maintaining he has never actually owned the property since it was not officially willed to him after his parents (the previous owners) died. The city, led by Gregali, is reportedly seeking to "appoint a trustee to address the problems."

If that happens, the building may be demolished.

Here are some of the pertinent highlights from what I wrote back in 2007:

Avalon Inside.jpg
IFurther complicating matters is that many in this south city community consider the Avalon a neighborhood landmark, a movie palace that seated nearly 650 when it was built in 1935. They are adamant that it be preserved, so much so that Gregali claims he's received death threats, warning him not to demolish the building.

Says Tsevis, "I don't care if [the city] tears it down. It'd be the best thing that ever happened to me."

In 1999, shortly after the theater closed, Gregali, as part of a neighborhood program, offered Tsevis and Moseley funds to partially renovate the building, which Tsevis declined. In the following years, the city responded to complaints from Southampton neighbors, including graffiti smeared on the theater walls and an abandoned vehicle in its parking lot. 

In April 2006, says Oswald, the building department stepped in and slapped Tsevis with the first in a series of fines for building-code violations. Following a city building inspection one day in March, Tsevis was hit with thirteen violations, fined and summoned to appear in court. Tsevis failed to appear and now has a warrant out for his arrest, according to Oswald.

Despite the building's poor condition, Tsevis has listed the property at prices ranging from $1.2 million to his current estimate of $900,000. These numbers are sharply at odds with the city, who appraised its worth at approximately $340,000.

It's pretty obvious that Tsevis didn't always claim he wasn't the owner of the building. We'll keep you posted as the story develops.

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