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Irwin's Lamp Theatre work begins June 1

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Despite being dormant for nearly 10 years, the Lamp Theatre has a long history in Irwin's business district.

The 72 year-old theater closed its doors in 2004, after owners George and Jean Rebich retired.

Chapman-Koury Real Estate Services in Irwin purchased it in 2004 and donated the Lamp Theatre to the Westmoreland Cultural Trust to renovate the theater in 2006.

The trust started renovating the theater in early 2009, but plans were put on hold indefinitely after a fire leveled the adjoining Irwin Hotel.

The organization planned to fix the theater's marquee and work on the interior after the hotel's charred remains were demolished, but, aside from repairing the fire-damaged roof, no further work had been done to the theater.

The Westmoreland Cultural Trust, Irwin officials and members of the state and county Department of Community and Economic Development estimated it would cost approximately $650,000 to rehabilitate the building. The state and county each pledged $250,000 in grant funding, while the borough agreed to contribute $150,000.

Last year, the theater renovations stalled after the Westmoreland Cultural Trust reported project bids came in $300,000 higher than expected, according to council president John Cassandro.

In March, the borough agreed to purchase the Lamp Theatre from the cultural trust for $1, and set a closing date for June 1, to clear up a lien on the property.

Along with the purchase agreement, council agreed to open a line of credit through S&T Bank of up to $125,000, with a 3.25 percent interest rate, to fund a portion of the theater's renovation costs.

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Irwin officials plan to begin working on the Lamp Theatre on June 1, with the hope of opening it by the summer of 2014.

Last week, officials revealed plans to begin working on the theater's façade June 1, the same day the borough council plans to finalize purchasing the building from the Westmoreland Cultural Trust.

Public-works director Jim Halfhill said he plans to rebuild the exterior of the theater with stucco, a plaster-like material made of an aggregate, binder and water.

Halfhill said he built the borough's announcement sign, on Pennsylvania Avenue, near Irwin Park, out of stucco. The material can be used to mimic just about any type of finish, including brick, he said.

“We can make it look like brick,” Halfhill said. “Stucco is very maintenance-free but can be modified to have just about any type of look.

“I just need to do some drawings and present them to council.”

Officials plan to use $15,000 in grant funding from the state, which the Westmoreland Cultural Trust obtained several years ago, to rebuild the façade, Halfhill said.

He said borough officials plan to use the grant money to purchase the stucco from Crafton-based Exterior Products of Pittsburgh, which offered a 50 percent discount, windows and doors.

The public-works department will rebuild the façade, instead of hiring contractors, Halfhill said.

Council plans to incorporate a clock tower into the design, similar to the McWilliams Building along Main Street, along with a genie's lamp, President John Cassandro said.

“It'll help us create a little skyline along Main Street,” Cassandro said.

Over the next several weeks, council plans to decide on the Lamp Theatre's color scheme, Cassandro said.

Council expects to begin planning on establishing a board of directors and working on an agreement with a theater-based organization to help run the Lamp once it opens, Cassandro said.

“We need to start considering booking acts in the fall,” Cassandro said. “That's only six months away, and while we can put it on the back burner for now, we can't leave it there very long.”

Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8626, or

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