As a resident of Bellefonte, I’m writing to express my household’s (myself, my husband and my 13-year-old son’s) disgust with the shortsighted proposal to gut and turn the Garman Opera House into housing instead of supporting its restoration and development. I offer that there are plenty of other places where housing can be provided for families, and I question: once built, what would the housing truly offer the community? The developer will have money, but what will we have?
Our downtown area needs to be the lifeblood of the community. Without services and places for current residents, let alone new residents to go to in Bellefonte, what kind of community will we become? We already have disaffected youth wondering around town with few places to go, belong and be welcome.
With the Bellefonte Historical and Cultural Association’s vision, we have the chance to not only build our community but to bring economic, cultural and artistic diversity to Bellefonte. We also have a chance to provide a place for our residents, especially our older youth, who have few options for places to congregate, participate, learn skills and be invested in their community.
Bringing back the Garman is one step toward the revitalization of our downtown and may attract other businesses. Turning the downtown into housing does nothing to enliven the economic or community needs. Bellefonte needs to become a vibrant place if it is to survive. Bringing more people into a town with already limited options cannot be in the best interests of the community.
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Sarah Iva Travis, Bellefonte