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Work on Pa. arts center on schedule

June 23, 2002|by STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

It's hard to visualize the gaping hole among downtown Chambersburg's storefronts as a multimillion-dollar cultural arts center, but planners say work is on schedule for its completion next spring.

"I'm very pleased. We are on schedule and will get done by next May," said Paul Cullinane, president of Downtown Chambersburg Inc., which is spearheading the project for the $5 million art center and expansion of the adjacent Capitol Theatre.

Three storefronts between the theater and Main Street Deli and four smaller structures along West Washington Street that backed up against the proposed center were razed last fall, leaving behind an open construction site bordered by three-story buildings along South Main Street.

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But progress continues, Cullinane said.

Contractors are putting concrete footers and subsurface walls in place. Next week they will pave the foundation floors, he said.

Passersby will soon be able to see more noticeable work when the steel structure of the building is erected in the coming weeks, Cullinane said.

The theater has remained open during the demolition of adjacent buildings and construction.

"We had to cut back on certain programming and will stop all activity in January, February and March to do the sprinkler system and connect the two buildings," Cullinane said.

He said that work and construction in the lobby would make it extremely difficult for people to get in and out.

"There are things going on almost every weekend throughout the summer and fall, and then we will put the brakes on things for three months," he said.

The Capitol Theatre Center will include a new lobby and concession stand for the 85-year-old theater, new parking, bathrooms and a gift shop. Eventually, a 160-seat second floor performance area for community theater and recitals will be added.

While the building will be only two stories high, a three-story facade will allow the architecture of the new center to be in keeping with that of existing buildings on Main Street.

The theater has been in continuous use since it opened in 1927. It was in danger of being shut down when the downtown group bought it in 1996 and attempted to reinvigorate both the theater and the downtown.

The Capitol Theatre Foundation will develop funding for an endowment that will cover the theater's operating costs.

The project is funded in part by a $2.5 million grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. Planners still need to raise about $2 million for the endowment and $800,000 for construction costs, Cullinane said.

A "silent phase" is under way now, soliciting from businesses and foundations. A public phase will not begin until the end of the year.

Eventually, the cultural arts center will house offices of the theater management, the Chambersburg Area Council for the Arts, the Caledonia Theatre Co., the Chambersburg Community Theatre and the Chambersburg Ballet Theatre School.

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