Bachan contends delays were due to architectural red tape and a squabble over land. The project will be done in 18 months, he assures.

And he has Fields's backing: "If I had questions about his integrity, he would not be there," she says. "I see the results."

On a recent sun-blasted Wednesday morning, Bachan ushers New Times into the theater. He climbs the stairs to the second floor and touches a glass case. Inside sits a sleek wooden model of a new, improved theater. Silver figurines stand onstage and in a tree-lined plaza outside. "When it's all said and done," Bachan says, "this is what it will look like."

But outside, a locked green gate surrounds the theater, and a few haggard-looking men wander around, taking swigs from brown bags.

"It's ridiculous," says Brad Knoefler, who owns land in the neighborhood. "Overtown finally gets money, and it's spent in either an incompetent or fraudulent manner."

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