Cur­tain falls on plan for the­ater

New park­ing deck project to con­tinue

The Republican Herald - - FRONT PAGE - STAFF WRITER BY AMY MARCHIANO

POTTSVILLE — The movie the­ater the city planned to build atop a new park­ing deck is not go­ing to hap­pen.

“From the start, we knew it was go­ing to be a tough, com­pli­cated thing to get done, “Savas Lo­go­the­tides, di­rec­tor of the Pottsville Area De­vel­op­ment Corp., said Thurs­day.

A new Ma­han­tongo Park­ing Deck will still be built with­out the cin­e­matic at­trac­tion.

“We are mov­ing for­ward with a three-deck park­ing garage,” Lo­go­the­tides said.

The­ater own­ers Bruce Taf­fet and Gina DiSanto, Har­ris­burg, had hoped the Pearl The­atre Sta­dium 8, which was shut­tered in Jan­uary due to the clos­ing of the Schuylkill Mall, could re­open at a new lo­ca­tion in Pottsville.

City Ad­min­is­tra­tor Thomas A. Pala­mar said in a state­ment that “the movie com­pany was un­able to gar­ner the fi­nan­i­cal re­sources needed to make the project a re­al­ity.”

The city was go­ing to build the shell of the movie the­ater and the own­ers were go­ing to com­plete the con­struc­tion, Pala­mar said.

The Pottsville Park­ing Author­ity and Schuylkill Mall The­atres LLC an­nounced in Jan­uary that a let­ter of in­tent was signed for the frame­work to bring a the­ater com­plex to Pottsville. It was proposed to be built on top of the new Ma­han­tongo Park­ing Deck, which will be de­mol­ished and re­built. Orig­i­nally con­structed in 1969, the deck was closed in Oc­to­ber 2016 when a con­trac­tor do­ing main­te­nance and re­pair work found de­te­ri­o­rated struc­tural re­in­forc­ing.

The planned the­ater was

to con­tain eight screens, 680 seats, a bar, con­ces­sion area and re­strooms, as well as an el­e­va­tor and es­ca­la­tor. The deck would con­tain about 240 park­ing spa­ces.

Pala­mar said Taf­fet had con­tacted Pottsville Mayor James T. Mul­downey re­cently to tell him the de­ci­sion to not con­tinue with the con­cept for a com­bined the­ater and park­ing deck. Mul­downey had pre­vi­ously talked with Taf­fet about the need for the park­ing deck project to progress. Pala­mar said both sides were un­der­stand­ing and there were “no hard feel­ings.”

Taf­fet said Thurs­day that fund­ing was one of the rea­sons for the de­ci­sion. While money is avail­able for the the­ater’s con­struc­tion, other costs were a con­cern.

Taf­fet and DiSanto were wor­ried about the es­ca­la­tor and el­e­va­tor. Any fu­ture re­pairs might be­come ex­pen­sive, he said.

While the orig­i­nal con­cept for the the­ater won’t be mov­ing for­ward, the own­ers are still look­ing for a site.

“I would like to find a per­fect lo­ca­tion for a the­ater,” Taf­fet said, adding Pottsville is still be­ing con­sid­ered.

“There is ex­cite­ment and in­ter­est around a movie the­ater in Pottsville. The de­mand is here, and a movie the­ater will be a mag­net for peo­ple of all ages to explore our down­town. Although the Pearl has stepped away from the park­ing garage con­cept, we con­tinue to explore our op­por­tu­ni­ties with new busi­nesses for the down­town dis­trict, in­clud­ing Pearl The­atre and other the­ater own­ers,” Lo­go­the­tides said.

One of the high­est pri­or­ity items in the Down­town Pottsville Strategic Re­vi­tal­iza­tion Plan was the con­struc­tion of the movie the­ater and park­ing com­plex. The Down­town Pottsville Strategic Re­vi­tal­iza­tion Plan pro­vides recommendations to spur the city to new life.

Lo­go­the­tides said that while the show is not go­ing on for the com­bined movie the­ater and park­ing deck con­cept, he’s not wor­ried.

“With any re­vi­tal­iza­tion there are go­ing to be small setbacks. We in­tend to do ev­ery­thing in our power to get one (the­ater) here,” he said.

De­mo­li­tion of the ex­ist­ing park­ing deck is set to be­gin this sum­mer. A date has not been pro­vided.

“We can’t go or de­lay any longer the re­build­ing of the park­ing deck,” Lo­go­the­tides said.

John Levkulic, en­gi­neer for the park­ing author­ity, said Thurs­day that ideally he would like the bids to be out in early June. The bids would be held for 90 to 120 days, he said.

An en­vi­ron­men­tal review by fed­eral agen­cies must be com­pleted be­fore de­mo­li­tion can start. Pala­mar said that process is still on­go­ing.

Pala­mar added the change in plans will ac­tu­ally bode well for the park­ing deck project.

“There is cer­tainly a silver lin­ing,” he said.

The park­ing deck project can move along faster, Pala­mar said.

Once de­mo­li­tion starts, “I would think the deck would be down within 90 days,” Levkulic said.

Com­ple­tion of the new park­ing deck will take a year from the start of con­struc­tion, he said. The en­trance will re­main off Sec­ond Street for the three­deck deck and it will have in­ter­nal ramps and one el­e­va­tor. Hand­i­capped park­ing spa­ces will also be avail­able.

The city coun­cil ap­proved a lease agree­ment be­tween the city and the park­ing author­ity in Feb­ru­ary for the struc­ture with an an­nual rent of $1. The lease de­fined the struc­ture as a four-story park­ing deck that had a com­mer­cial build­ing on its top floor. The author­ity is the land­lord and the city is the ten­ant, per the 45-year lease that was ef­fec­tive Feb. 7.

The city ap­plied for fund­ing for the project and is work­ing on a fi­nal sub­mis­sion for funds to the U.S. Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture Com­mu­nity Fa­cil­i­ties Grant. Pre­vi­ously, the city was go­ing to ap­ply for $7.2 mil­lion. With the change in plans, the amount will be re­duced by “at least $1.5 mil­lion,” Levkulic said.

This week the city coun­cil au­tho­rized Mul­downey to sign a Re­de­vel­op­ment As­sis­tance Cap­i­tal Pro­gram ap­pli­ca­tion for $1 mil­lion for the park­ing deck. The funds come from the state’s Of­fice of the Bud­get. To be el­i­gi­ble for the RACP funds, the project must be in­cluded in one or more of the PA Cap­i­tal Bud­get Project Item­iza­tion Acts, ac­cord­ing to the RACP web­site. Each proposed project seek­ing fund­ing must meet a min­i­mum cost of $1 mil­lion.

“We are in the fi­nal stages of the fi­nanc­ing process. It will not fall on the tax­pay­ers,” Lo­go­the­tides said.

Richard L. “Dick” Yuengling Jr. pre­vi­ously pledged to do­nate up to $2.8 mil­lion for the con­struc­tion of the park­ing deck.

An­other fund­ing source would be a prom­is­sory note is­sued by the Pottsville Park­ing Author­ity and bought by the Greater Pottsville Area Sewer Author­ity for $750,000. Lo­go­the­tides said they have not de­ter­mined if and when they are go­ing to is­sue that.

JAC­QUE­LINE dORMER / STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

The Ma­han­tongo Park­ing Deck will be de­mol­ished and re­built in the near fu­ture in Pottsville. How­ever, the plan to in­clude a the­ater at the top of the struc­ture has been scrapped.

A new Ma­han­tongo Park­ing Deck will be built in Pottsville.

JAC­QUE­LINE DORMER / STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

The Ma­han­tongo Park­ing Deck will be de­mol­ished and re­built in the near fu­ture in Pottsville. How­ever, the plan to in­clude a the­ater at the top of the struc­ture has been scrapped.

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