Garman Theatre group outlines restoration plan for Bellefonte landmark

Members of the Bellefonte Historical and Cultural Association announced during a press conference Friday that they have a multiphase plan to help restore the historic Garman Theatre.

The organization’s plans include stabilization, construction, rehabilitation, financing and operations to help boost the economy and the theater if Judge Thomas King Kistler prevents the structure from being demolished. There is a hearing Monday to further determine the future of the theater.

BHCA President Keith Koch said the total amount to restore and save the Garman is estimated between $1 million and $3 million, however that amount could fluctuate, he said.

BHCA member Nancy Noll said the organization has raised about half of the estimated cost to pay for the immediate re-roofing of the building — which has been in three fires in its more than 120-year history — and save it from further damage.

That should be enough to help push them forward in the process to save the site, as estimates are near $200,000 to repair the roof of the theater.

Noll said repairing the roof is the first step. Next, she said, comes construction and funding to help make that happen through the use of grants and incentives from the state.

She added that the group is in discussion with local companies or organizations that may want to use Garman space.

“Grants are an easy way to raise money because you don’t have to pay them back,” Noll said. BHCA has also reached out to the community for help raise funds.

And next comes restoring the theater to its former glory and make it usable again for the public.

“The Bellefonte Historical and Cultural Association’s plan to restore the building and open it again with a goal of serving the community with an even broader mission than in the theater’s past will not only continue the Garman’s contribution to the beauty, the heritage and the economy of Bellefonte, but enhance it,” said BHCA member Melady Kehm.

Those plans include making an active theater, having adaptable spaces for businesses or organizations that want to use space, an area for concerts, a restaurant, studio space and more.

BHCA member Mary Vollero said partners in the effort include the Bellefonte Art Museum, the Bellefonte Arts and Crafts Fair, the JazzPA festival, Victorian Christmas and the Bellefonte Cruise.

“Our vision of the Garman brings new people to our town, making it a destination that would help to revitalize our downtown,” Vollero said. “And finally, for those of us who live here, the Garman could become a source of pride rather than a memory.”

The group is still accepting donations and pledges.