State agency: Proposal for funding to redevelop Garman incomplete

A state agency may be stepping into the ring regarding the Garman Theatre redevelopment.

The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission’s acting director of the Bureau of Historic Preservation sent a letter to developer Ara Kervandjian informing him that his application is incomplete and the federal funding he is requesting from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency could be at risk.

“In our opinion, although fire damaged, these buildings retain sufficient integrity to convey their significance to contribute to the Bellefonte Historic District,” Andrea MacDonald wrote in the letter obtained by the Centre Daily Times.

MacDonald wrote that Kervandjian’s Progress Development Group should include alternative locations for the project, alternative designs and alternative means of addressing it without demolition of historic buildings if he plans to use U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development funding for the project. She added that if he does not plan to use federal funding, the PHMC still must review the project under the state history code.

Kervandjian plans to raze the Garman and the next-door Hotel Do De, combining it with the nearby Cadillac Building to create 32 workforce housing apartments, replacing the three fire-damaged buildings. He has said this project is contingent on a successful application for federal low-income housing tax credits through Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency.

He did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

At the Borough Council meeting Nov. 11, when the demolition of the Garman was approved, solicitor Tom Schrack read a letter from PHFA saying Kervandjian’s proposal was complete.

But PHFA spokesman Scott Elliott said it should have been noted that it was an opinion, not final say on whether the project met the requirements.

“We were asked to provide our opinion, which we did, but we should have included clarification that the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission is the determining state agency on that matter,” he said.

Kervandjian has said that if his proposal is not successful, his company will seek other means to redevelop the properties. He owns all three buildings.

The demolition issue is set to go before a judge Dec. 4. In the conference call hearing, a Commonwealth Court judge will hear arguments from the Bellefonte Historical and Cultural Association for an injunction request on the demolition and a motion from the Bellefonte Industrial Development Authority to throw out the injunction and allow Kervandjian to proceed.