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Theater plans move forward in Sewickley despite grant approval delay

| Wednesday, July 24, 2013, 11:36 a.m.

Plans for a two-screen movie theater in the heart of Sewickley are moving ahead, despite delayed action on a $350,000 grant that is needed to pay for the project.

“We're pretty confident it's going to happen, but you can't count your chickens,” theater board President Susan Kaminski said of the Commonwealth Financing Authority's decision, now expected Sept. 17 in Harrisburg.

The authority canceled a July 10 meeting.

The two-screen movie theater, which would show independent and classic films and host educational events, is one of 19 projects across Allegheny County awaiting approval on grants from the authority, said Patrick Early, a manager with the Allegheny County Economic Development Department.

The department recommended projects to the state authority for grants varying from $200,000 to $500,000.

Village Theater Co., the nonprofit planning the theater, has raised $950,000 so far, not including the projected state grant, Kaminski said.

Organizers are seeking volunteers for newly created building, fund-raising, finance and other committees, and are continuing to solicit for donations.

The project's future hinges on the grant approval and a property purchase agreement, she said.

The theater could be built above a planned borough parking garage. The garage could add up to 300 spaces in a multi-level structure between Green and Walnut streets.

Council members may decide in August or September to build the garage, and construction could start in November, borough Manager Kevin Flannery said. The garage could be completed by June, he said.

The theater's proposed construction timeline is not as clear.

“It's a moving target, largely because we're tied in with the borough's development of that area,” Kaminski said.

The possibility for grant money “reinforces the value of the theater to the community,”she said.

Theater leaders hoped to have $1.5 million in pledges by June 30, but Kaminski called last month's date a “soft” deadline and said a grant award could spur additional donations that are crucial to the project.

Bobby Cherry is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-324-1408 or rcherry@tribweb.com.

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