Judge upholds decision to award Bellefonte’s Garman Theatre to housing developer

A Centre County judge has cleared the way for State College developer Ara Kervandjian to purchase the fire-damaged, mold-filled Garman Threatre building, raze it, and turn the location on High Street into workforce housing.

President Judge Thomas King Kistler issued a decision Friday upholding the Bellefonte Industrial Development Authority’s plan to award Kervandjian the opportunity to purchase and redevelop the historic building.

Kistler also issued a separate order denying a bid to intervene filed by the Bellefonte Historical and Cultural Association, which sought legal standing to take the matter to the Centre County Court of Common Pleas.

The BHCA wanted to save the building by raising money to have it restored and by creating a nonprofit group that would again operate the Garman as a theater.

The Garman was damaged in a Sept. 9, 2012, fire that started in and destroyed the neighboring Hotel Do De.

The developer and the BHCA each submitted proposals in May to purchase the Garman. The IDA, which had been granted conservatorship of the building by the courts, awarded Kervandjian the right to purchase the building.

The IDA stuck by that original decision Wednesday, the new deadline after it asked the court if it could take a longer look at the BHCA proposal.

The historical group responded by filing a bid to intervene, but Kistler ruled that the request was not timely and that the BHCA would have had to file the motion when the IDA was named conservator in March.

BHCA President Keith Koch said he had not seen the judge’s order Friday and could not comment. Upon learning of the decision, he said the group would consult with its attorney before determining its next step.

Kistler’s decision clears the way for Kervandjian to proceed with his plan of creating 32 workforce housing apartment units at the sites of three landmark downtown buildings that were destroyed in fires — the Garman, Hotel Do De and Cadillac Building.

His company owns the Do De and Cadillac building. He purchased the Do De last week for $40,000 from previous owner John Dann, according to a deed filed in the Centre County Courthouse.

Kervandjian’s plans call for one building, called the Garman House, to go up where the Do De and Garman are, and a renovation of the Cadillac Building that will be called the Cadillac House. Together, the buildings are dubbed the Bellefonte Mews, the latter a word that refers to stables on buildings in the 19th century that are present on these buildings.

Kervandjian could not immediately be reached for comment Friday.

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