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Irwin purchases Lamp Theatre for $1

Michael DiVittorio
| Thursday, March 21, 2013, 4:31 a.m.
The Lamp Theatre in Irwin, shown shortly after it closed in 2005, was purchased by the borough from the Westmoreland Cultural Trust for $1 during a special council session Wednesday.
The Lamp Theatre in Irwin, shown shortly after it closed in 2005, was purchased by the borough from the Westmoreland Cultural Trust for $1 during a special council session Wednesday.

Irwin council unanimously adopted a resolution entering into a sales agreement with Westmoreland Cultural Trust to purchase the Lamp Theatre along Main Street for $1.

Councilor Debbie Kelly made the motion and Councilor Gail Macioce seconded it at Wednesday night's special meeting. Councilor Phyllis Thiem was absent.

“It's an important building in Irwin, not just because of its age but its ability to bring in business to the community,” said council president John Cassandro. “We really didn't want to see this go away because we don't need another vacant lot in Irwin.”

“It should benefit the whole community,” Macioce said. “I'd like to see local live talent on the stage. I'm really a supporter of live music.”

The borough plans to show independent and classic films and other forms of entertainment.

Cassando noted there are not many places within the Norwin area to see live performances or movies.

“You can't even go see a movie in our community,” he said. “That's a big area to not have any kind of entertainment at all. We'd be the only game in town when it opens.”

There's no projected opening date.

“You're talking about step 500, and we're at step one,” Cassandro said. “I'd like it to open in June, but that's not (going to) happen.”

Council also unanimously approved opening a line of credit with S&T Bank not to exceed $125,000 with an interest rate not to exceed 3.25 percent, and transfering $125,000 from the sewer/storm water project fund into the general fund as collateral against the line of credit.

Borough manager Mary Benko said the line of credit is available for a maximum of 99 months.

Benko said the borough has at least $25,000 in additional available funds, allowing Irwin to have the $150,000 in matching funds needed to obtain $500,000 in grants through the state and Westmoreland County.

In 2011, borough and trust officials estimated the cost to have the theater operational would be approximately $650,000.

Cassandro said he would not allow $150,000 worth of borough money be spent on the theater if the borough did not own it.

The Lamp Theatre opened in 1938 and closed on Jan. 31, 2005. Its ownership changed hands several times.

George Koury, David Sinclair and Bill Chapman purchased the theater on Feb. 17, 2005, from George and Jean Rebich.

The Trust obtained the theater sometime after that, and relinquished all ownership and rights to the borough as of Wednesday.

The Trust did have plans to renovate the theater before its sale. Plans included 381 seats and an expanded entryway to make the building accessible to those with disabilities and compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The final part of the project's plans included reinforcing the stage and installing sound and lighting systems, curtains, backdrops, seats and safety devices, such as fire and smoke detectors.

Cassandro said the borough is having designs drawn up as to how to better revamp the Lamp.

“As soon as we possibly can you will see construction going on,” he said. “We're going to begin fundraising again. We do have a lot of money to raise.”

According to the Westmoreland County Property Assessment website, the Lamp Theatre has an assessed value of $35,140.

Relight The Lamp, a group comprised of Irwin area residents dedicated to saving the theater, and the committee of The Irwin Project raised $70,000 toward its reopening. Funds include a $30,000 pledge from the Norwin Rotary to revitalize its marquee. The Irwin Business & Professional Association pledged $1,000 to Relight the Lamp in August 2011.

“I am all smiles right now,” Relight The Lamp founder Kathleen Heuer said after the special meeting. “This has been a long time coming. We're very grateful to Irwin council for their attention and their diligence with the Lamp project, and we look forward to working with them closely.”

Relight The Lamp has three core members and many supporters. More information and how to get involved can be found at or email

Cassandro said he welcomes help from Relight The Lamp, as well as from others from the community.

“Whatever anybody can offer us to help,” he said. “Anybody that wants to see this Lamp open up we're going to put them to work.”

Cassandro said the borough merely owns the theater now, and does not operate or manage it. Who will take over those responsibilities has yet to be determined.

Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1965, or Tribune Review News Service contributed to this story.

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