Borough, developer trying to close deal on Garman Theatre

Bellefonte’s plan for the Garman Theatre received the necessary court approval last week. Now it’s time to tie up loose ends and move on, borough Manager Ralph Stewart said.

Stewart said the back-and-forth has been difficult for the community, but it’s time to bring the chapter to a close.

“We’re all ready to put the whole issue of the Garman behind us and move forward,” he said.

To wrap it up, the borough’s solicitor is negotiating with State College developer Ara Kervandjian for a final sale price on the building. As part of the submitted plan, Stewart said the borough will be looking to get back any costs it has put into the building.

Stewart would not release that number, saying the deal isn’t done; however previous estimates were more than $40,000. He is expecting the deal to be completed soon.

The Bellefonte Industrial Development Authority, which acts as the conservator of the property under the Abandoned and Blighted Properties Conservatorship Act, awarded Kervandjian and his company, Progress Development Group, the opportunity to buy the property last week. That decision was approved by Centre County President Judge Thomas King Kistler.

Kervandjian plans to raze the Garman and Hotel Do De, which were destroyed by fire last year, creating one new building for workforce housing. When combined with the Cadillac Building, the total project would yield 32 workforce housing apartments.

His plan was chosen over a proposal by the Bellefonte Historical and Cultural Association to save the Garman, restoring it into a regional arts center.

Stewart said he expects the deal to be completed under the previous guidelines that include demolition of the Garman and Do De by February and an option for the borough to buy back the Garman property if Kervandjian’s plan doesn’t come to fruition in the next two years.

Kervandjian has said he will still try to develop the buildings even if he doesn’t end up with the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency tax credits he is applying for, but that remains his primary objective.

He said he is also standing by his idea to try to save the facade of the building if it’s economically and structurally feasible. He said last week he will continue looking at all options to help Bellefonte.

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

Kervandjian did not return a request for comment by press time Tuesday.