Irwin's Lamp Theatre project nears goal

| Wednesday, April 30, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Irwin officials believe they are on the verge of reaching the fundraising goal needed to get $500,000 in state and county grants available to restore the Lamp Theatre.

“We still have some calculations to make, but I think we're just about there, or will be there, in the next couple of weeks,” said Councilman John Cassandro, who has been coordinating efforts to restore the 76-year-old former movie house, which closed in 2004.

The state and county each have committed $250,000 for construction, Cassandro said. But to get that money, Irwin has to come up with $150,000.

So far, $123,827 has been raised, Cassandro said.

Cash gifts such as the $30,000 received from the Norwin Rotary and $20,000 from Irwin borough have been augmented with non-monetary, or “in-kind” donations, including volunteer hours.

Other major gifts include about $20,000 worth of materials from Exterior Products of Pittsburgh, which are being used to build a new façade and entrance, according to borough officials. Another $30,000 worth of waterproofing material and labor also was by Better Choice Waterproofing in Irwin.

“We're allowed to use in-kind donations like the time volunteers have donated to the project toward the money we need to draw down the grants,” Cassandro said. “We're placing an average value of $25 an hour for the work volunteers do, which came to $15,000 for the 600 volunteer hours logged between November and April.”

Cassandro said the borough's engineer, Lucien Bove, is preparing construction specification so bids can be sought in May. While most of the demolition work has been done by volunteers, construction will be performed by professional contractors.

The design work that Bove has been doing throughout the project — as well as much of the work by skilled tradesmen and donations from eateries to feed volunteers — have not yet been tallied, the councilman said.

“I think once we factor in the rest of those things we'll hit our goal,” Cassandro said.

The budget to refurbish the theater is $875,000. Plans call for extending the stage into the auditorium with an orchestra pit below to accommodate live performances. A digital movie-projector and lighting and sound systems also are in the works. An entrance will be made on the side of the building leading to an outdoor courtyard on an adjacent vacant lot.

Project organizers recently mailed out 10,000 fliers seeking donations and to announce a new website where gifts can be sent.

“The $150,000 we needed to raise is a milestone to get the grants for construction,” Cassandro said. “But we anticipate that a lot of other expenses will come up as we move forward, including a $90,000 mortgage on the building that has to be satisfied and the cost of constructing and furnishing the courtyard. We're hoping residents who get the flyer will consider supporting the project.”

Tony LaRussa is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-856-7400, ext. 8626, or at

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