Garman Theatre battle goes back to court

mmorgan@centredaily.comOctober 7, 2013 

— The battle for the historic Garman Theatre will see the inside of a courtroom next week for the third time.

The latest hearing will allow the Bellefonte Historical and Cultural Association to make its case for an injunction that would prevent State College developer Ara Kervandjian from demolishing the building until an appeal process is completed. A one-hour hearing is tentatively scheduled for 2 p.m. Oct. 15 in Courtroom 1.

Kervandjian was awarded the building after the Bellefonte Industrial Development Authority and President Judge Thomas King Kistler approved his plan to raze the building and create 32 workforce housing units when combined with the Hotel Do De and Cadillac Building. All three were badly damaged by fire.

The BHCA’s proposal would be to restore the building, transforming it into a regional arts center. The group has raised more than $250,000 for the effort and remains hopeful that it will end up with the building, President Keith Koch said.

“I’ve been optimistic all along,” he said when the injunction was first filed. “Of course we’re optimistic.”

Kervandjian has said his affordable housing project is something the town needs. It would restore three burned-out buildings, which he said would be a first step to attracting more business and aid the area.

“I looked at the opportunities to help the community and revitalize the town,” he said last month.

But in its injunction, the BHCA asserts that not all provisions under the Abandoned and Blighted Properties Conservatorship Act were met because Kervandjian does not have all of his funding in place. He is seeking Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency tax credits to complete the project.

The group also has maintained that there is a restrictive covenant on the building, saying it should not be knocked down if it’s structurally sound and that the IDA should not have been named conservator of the property.

In the meantime, Kervandjian is looking for borough clearance to demolish the building. The Bellefonte Historical Architectural Review Board is expected to make a recommendation to Borough Council at its 8:30 a.m. meeting Tuesday.

The next scheduled IDA meeting is Wednesday.

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

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