Uptown begins fundraising drive
- By JEREMY GERRARD
- Posted: Monday, 04/22/13
Photo courtesy of Greg Radford Architect, Board Member, Uptown! Entertainment Alliance, Preliminary space development plan showing the new proposed theater at the Armory.
2013 Annual Red Carpet Gala
WEST CHESTER – After finally finding a site for theater in the borough, members of the Uptown! Entertainment Alliance
are ready to kick off a capital campaign and begin the development phase.
“This is going to be fast,” said Richard May, Uptown treasurer and member manager of WC LLC. “We are going to have to really be racing through this process; we can’t take our good old time to be raising money this year.”
Recently Uptown!, which has pursued adding a theater to the borough’s central business district for years, reached an agreement with the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs to acquire the 10,900-square-foot National Guard Armory building for $760,000, provided that it be maintained and preserved in accordance with historic standards. The building, which was built in 1916 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, sits on 0.6 acres in West Chester’s historic district at 226 North High Street.
Since the announcement, the group has turned its efforts to fundraising. Representatives said will likely come from several large investors and some invested capital.
“We are in a serious fundraising effort because when this legislation comes though, every bit of money we got will be going out the door to the state and then we have to keep the lights on,” said Jim Salvas, Uptown! secretary [SIC].
The alliance is being supported in the purchase of the armory by a low-interest loan from West Chester Library, Labor & Capital LLC, or WC LLC, which was formed six years ago to help fund worthwhile public and private projects in West Chester.
May said the funding was used to initially provide assistance to renovations at the West Chester public library. After the library funding, May said the investors were interested in keeping the money in as a revolving fund to pursue various projects. Uptown! anticipates returning the money in a 10 year plan.
Other fundraising efforts will come from a founding member program or club the group plans to initiate where community members will be recognized as permanent VIP’s of the theater and hold a non-voting share in it. Another initiative is the sale of prints from a painting that local artist Richard Bollinger completed of the armory.
“We are confident we will be able to raise the money. We are just less confident in how quickly we can do it,” May said.
Salvas said at this point the group has about 1,000 local supporters, but they want to be able to get the whole community involved.
“We are looking for people who have a good reach throughout Chester County and really believe this is a good thing we are doing,” said Tom McEvoy, vice-president of Uptown!
Last week the group hosted a gala at the armory last week, both a celebration of the recent news and farewell for the departing troops. About 400 people packed the armory that night. Speaks included West Chester Mayor Carolyn Comitta, who gave a tribute to the troops, and state Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-19th of West Whiteland, who discussed the current legislation. Before they can purchase the property, Harrisburg must pass Senate Bill 827, which will officially authorize the conveyance.
The Pennsylvania National Guard unit stationed at the armory — about 170 troops of Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 111th Infantry Battalion, 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team — is set to move into the new Coatesville Readiness Center in Sadsbury this fall.
Dinniman announced at the event he is submitting Uptown! for a development grant which could raise $500,000 for the project, according to Uptown! representatives.
Funds raised from the event came out to more than $70,000, though that number is still growing.
“I think we have a good solid business plan it’s just a matter of carrying it out,” Salvas said.
With the aid of board members, the group has put together a preliminary space development which shows theater space with seating for about 400 people complete with a proscenium arch and wings along with a screen to show movies.
Plans for the front of the space include a café while the upper level can be used as a studio, lounge or office space that could potentially be rented out to businesses.
In the lower level, the group intends on having a kitchen functional for catering events, dressing rooms and more studio space for multi-purpose events. May said the goal of the theater is to be self-sustaining.
Follow Daily Local News staff writer Jeremy Gerrard on Twitter @JeremyGerrard.