Garman Theatre decision expected from Bellefonte Industrial Development Authority meeting on Wednesday

mmorgan@centredaily.comSeptember 10, 2013 

  • GARMAN GATHERING

    What: Meeting of the Bellefonte Industrial Development Authority.

    When: 6 p.m., Wednesday.

    Where: Council chambers, Bellefonte Borough Building, 236 W. Lamb St.

    At stake: The IDA is expected to announce its decision about the future of the Garman Theatre building, damaged by fire a year ago.

— After months of meetings, hearings and back-and-forth discussions, the Garman Theatre battle could be reaching its conclusion.

The Bellefonte Industrial Development Authority is expected to make its final decision between State College developer Ara Kervandjian and the Bellefonte Historical and Cultural Association at its regular meeting Wednesday. The meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. in the Borough Council chambers.

IDA members previously voted in favor of Kervandjian’s plan to raze the Garman and the Hotel Do De next door, and join them with the Cadillac Building to create 32 workforce housing apartments. But IDA members have the ability to change course and choose the BHCA proposal to restore the Garman building and turn it into a regional arts center.

Kervandjian already owns both the Do De and the Cadillac Building. He completed purchase of the Do De last week.

The Do De and Garman were damaged by fire a year ago this week.

Either way, borough solicitor Rod Beard expects a decision Wednesday, saying he would advise against any more delays.

Control of the building’s fate was given to the IDA under the Abandoned and Blighted Properties Conservatorship Act, which gives the authority power to choose a proposal, pending court approval.

“The conservator needs to submit the final plan,” Beard said, adding that the role of the court is to make sure the proper process has been followed, not to render a decision on which plan to adopt.

President Judge Thomas King Kistler has held two hearings and extended the Garman decision deadline multiple times. Kistler said he plans to act on the final IDA decision without another hearing.

In his last court order, Kistler said the IDA should submit its final plan as quickly as possible after the Wednesday meeting.

Kistler wrote in an email Tuesday that he has not heard from either side since that court order.

If it is awarded the opportunity to buy the building, the BHCA would put a roof on the Garman to prevent further damage, 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, he said.

To change or alter its proposal, the IDA would have to take action at the meeting. But if the IDA chooses to stick with the original choice of Kervandjian’s plan, no further action is necessary, Beard said.

Borough Manager Ralph Stewart confirmed that the topic will be on the agenda, but was unable to say if any action is expected.

Matt Morgan can be reached at 235-3928. Follow him on Twitter @MetroMattMorgan.

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