Charleroi launches redevelopment plan Revive 2016
A functioning Coyle Theater hosting concerts and live stage events.
A thriving entertainment district in the heart of downtown Charleroi attracting patrons, who roll into town, choosing from various restaurants.
A revitalized, historic downtown business district, the improved facades highlighting the filled storefronts.
That vision of Charleroi, circa 2016, could be a part of the borough's four-year plan. If so, its genesis could one day be traced back to the initial meeting of Revive 2016, held Monday afternoon in the borough building's community room.
Two dozen business and local government officials heard from experts in downtown revitalization who discussed programs that provide incentives to invest in historic and commercial properties.
Barry Cassidy, newly hired consultant for the Mid Mon Cultural Trust, raised the greatest hope for the committee when he vowed his goal is to have construction on the historic — but shuttered — theater started by mid-2014.
“It may be a hard sell, but utilizing my skills, I'm confident we can start work on it by (July 2014),” Cassidy said.
Cassidy has come on board with the Coyle Theater project in the aftermath of hard times for the project. It hit rock bottom when trust officials missed a deadline at the end of 2012 to match $179,000 in local share money awarded for the Coyle in 2008.
Late last year, Charleroi council instructed borough manager Donn Henderson to send a letter to the Washington County Local Share Account Grant Committee and the state Department of Community and Economic Development requesting a reconsideration of use of money allocated for the Coyle restoration project.
The reallocation effort includes a request to spend some of the money to form a business plan for the Coyle project, making the theater project more marketable to foundations.
Cassidy said he plans to seek foundation money for the project. But his first fundraising effort will involve application by the fall for $500,000 in an Anchor Building Grant. That funding would be sought in the borough's name and loaned at no interest to the trust, with repayment deferred for 15 years.
The reallocation request, for which the borough is awaiting word from the Local Share Account and the state DCED, would also involve renovation of the third floor of the borough building.
Once used to host dances, the third floor space could be made available for live bands to practice before performing in a downtown entertainment district, along with other uses.
Cassidy said he plans to meet with property owners and members of the cultural, civic and business communities to discuss the Coyle Theater. Cassidy said his plans include merging arts and entertainment into an economic development strategy for the borough.
Cassidy said he sees the revitalized Coyle Theater as a cornerstone for an entertainment district in downtown Charleroi.
Henderson, who chaired Wednesday's meeting, said the entertainment district could attract business developers to move into storefronts in the community.
Cassidy credited Henderson with understanding and supporting his vision for revitalizing downtown Charleroi, saying some borough managers “don't get it.” Henderson credits borough council with supporting a four-year plan for the borough's revitalization.
Available tax credit programs for developers were also discussed.
David Farkas, director of Main Street programs for the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, discussed tax credits available for commercial properties in historic districts. The downtown Charleroi business district is included in the Historic Registry.
Historic tax credits of 10 to 20 percent are available, based on improvements made to historic buildings, Farkas said.
Joe Kirk, executive director of the Mon Valley Progress Council, said nine Valley communities, including Charleroi, are a part of a multi-community enterprise zone.
Commercial, manufacturing, industrial and corporate offices located in the enterprise zone are eligible for 25 percent tax credits on the value of permanent improvements to their businesses. That includes new construction and infrastructure improvements to an existing building.
Henderson said the Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance can be used to defer by five years a reassessment on improvements to buildings.
Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or firstname.lastname@example.org.