Bellefonte

Hotel Do De sold to developer interested in building Bellefonte workforce housing

mcarroll@centredaily.comSeptember 10, 2013 

— A community group continued its push Monday to save the historic Garman Theatre, but the future of another downtown landmark has been decided.

The fire-ravaged Hotel Do De has been sold to State College developer Ara Kervandjian, who for months sought to acquire the hotel and the neighboring Garman Theatre to turn the buildings into workforce housing.

Former Do De owner John Dann said the sale became official last week, just ahead of the one-year anniversary of the blaze that gutted his building and badly damaged the Garman.

The deed filed Friday in at the Centre County Courthouse shows the property, at 110 E. High Street, sold for $40,000 to Bellefonte Mews L.P., which officials with knowledge said is led by Kervandjian.

Kervandjian could not immediately be reached for comment late Monday.

The developer previously said he planned to knock down the buildings, creating 32 apartment units.

“Rebuilding those buildings, I think, is the beginning of a process that downtown Bellefonte sorely needs in order to take advantage of some of the opportunities that they have,” Kervandjian said in February.

In addition to the $40,000 he paid for the Do De, Kervandjian now faces the costs of razing the building.

Dann said he marked the one-year anniversary of the fire and said goodbye to the building in his own special way. His family and former employees at his tavern gathered Saturday evening across from the shell of his former building.

“There were tears in their eyes,” Dann said. “It was no fun. But we made it fun.”

Dann was one of several dozen local residents who attended a community meeting Monday evening at the courthouse annex that aimed to gather support to save the Garman Theatre. The Bellefonte Historical and Cultural Association hosted the event.

The group has a five-year plan they say would restore the theater and establish it as a regional cultural center that would bring tourism and revenue to town and give locals cultural and educational opportunities.

“We’re tired of watching this town burn,” said BHCA member Jonathan Eburne. “It’s time to unite to build something that will benefit us all.”

BHCA members think the theater could draw 1,000 people weekly to downtown Bellefonte.

The group estimates the five-year project would cost $5 million, but said the project could start paying dividends for area residents before then, thanks to the cultural nonprofit that would be started to operate the theater.

BHCA members said the first step of the project would be to replace the structure’s roof and seal the property to protect it from the elements and further decay. Then they would start formally applying for money from charitable foundations or the government.

Officials estimate they could still need to secure $1 million in public funding.

BHCA President Keith Koch said the group has about $180,000 in its bank account, and should have $250,000 by the end of the week. Officials revealed at the meeting they received a $100,000 donation Monday.

A decision on the Garman is expected Wednesday from the Bellefonte Industrial Development Authority.

The authority took control of the building in March under the Abandoned and Blighted Properties Conservatorship Act, superseding a sales agreement Kervandjian reached for the building.

Matt Carroll can be reached at 231-4631. Follow him on Twitter @Carrollreporter.

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