Demolition of Garman, Hotel Do De to begin Friday

The beginning of the end for the historic Garman Theatre and Hotel Do De is set for Friday, the president of the contracting company in charge of the demolition said.

Kylertown-based Earthmovers Unlimited Inc. will use excavation machinery with demolition attachments to take down the Garman and Hotel Do De piece by piece, with the entire process taking three to four weeks, John Niebauer Jr. said.

Developer Ara Kervandjian and his company, Progress Development Group, plan to raze both buildings and combine them with the Cadillac Building to create 32-units of workforce housing apartments. All three buildings were damaged by fire.

The contractors will not use a wrecking ball, but heavy machinery will start going into place on Thursday to prepare for the Friday morning start of work. They will move from back to front, first closing Cherry Lane then closing a portion of High Street near Allegheny Street possibly next week.

Borough Manager Ralph Stewart said PDG first had to go through a review process with the state Department of Environmental Protection before getting started on demolition. Workers already removed the windows from the building this week at the behest of DEP.

“They seem like they’re ready to go and getting everyone in order to do that,” he said of the project.

The borough issued the demolition permit after the Borough Council voted 5-4 to approve a certificate of appropriateness to demolish the two properties, clearing the way for Kervandjian.

Kervandjian purchased the property after his plan was approved by the Bellefonte Industrial Development Authority and Centre County President Judge Thomas King Kistler. It was chosen over an alternate proposal by the Bellefonte Historical and Cultural Association to revitalize the building and turn it into a regional arts center.

Representatives from the BHCA attempted to challenge Kistler’s decision by asking for an injunction and appeal with the Commonwealth Court, but a judge quickly upheld the local decision and sided with Kervandjian after a short teleconference hearing.

He is still seeking funding through the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency to complete the project. His initial application was denied because he didn’t own the building, but he said he will be applying again in 2014.

Bellefonte resident Mary Vollero, who has supported saving the Garman through the process, made a final plea to the Centre County Board of Commissioners for help Tuesday, saying that seeing the building on the edge of demolition is “sickening.”

But it doesn’t appear any help will be coming from the county.

Commissioner Michael Pipe said his heart is with the people fighting for the Garman, but the fight is done.

“My head understands where the courts are at and how the process has run its course,” he said. “It’s always difficult to get to the end and not get the outcome that you want.”

He added that the county has a representative overseeing the process to make sure that everything goes correctly and the county-owned Courthouse Annex and Temple Court Building are not damaged.

Kervandjian did not return requests for comment Tuesday.