Judge Kistler grants third extension for Garman decision

The Garman Theatre saga is not over.

For the third time, Centre County President Judge Thomas King Kistler granted an extension to the process, further delaying a final decision on the fate of the building.

But this time it was at the request of the Bellefonte Industrial Development Authority, the conservator of the property.

Kistler’s written order Monday granted the request Monday, allowing the IDA more time to amend its plan and discuss options. A final decision should be submitted after the IDA’s Sept. 11 meeting.

Borough Solicitor Rodney Beard said the authority members decided to ask for the extension to go through the required process and give the Bellefonte Historical and Cultural Association’s final proposal they thought it deserves.

“They didn’t want to do any kind of knee-jerk reaction one way or another,” Beard said.

The IDA previously voted in favor of the plan put forth by State College developer Ara Kervandjian to raze both buildings and create one building of workforce housing. The “Garman House” would be combined with the Cadillac Building to create 32 work-force housing units. All three buildings were badly damaged by fire.

But the BHCA would like the see the historic building restored and turned into a regional arts center with live performances, movies and apartments. They would work with local artists and performers to create a cultural home, according to their proposal. If they get the building, BHCA members have said they will put a roof on it by October to prevent further damage.

Beard said this extension doesn’t necessarily mean a change of heart. He said no final decision has been made regarding the competing proposals, and the members are weighing both options to follow the process and be responsible about the decision.

And IDA member and Borough Council President Frank Halderman said the BHCA monetary outlook doesn’t look much better than it has in the past.

“I still think it’s going to be a tough row to hoe if they end up with it,” he said. “They just really don’t have enough money in the bank.”

He said he really just doesn’t want to see the building back in the hands of the borough and force them to spend public money to demolish it.

Halderman also said there are several fundraisers and campaigns going on in the borough like the YMCA and the school district looking to raise funds for athletic fields. He said he doesn’t think there is enough to go around to also fund the renovation of this building.

“I just think it’s a long shot,” he said.

Beard is not sure if the agenda item at the September meeting will appear as a discussion item or an action item. No official action would need to be taken if the IDA decides to stick with its previous decision, but a public vote would be required if it decides to change course.