Coyle Theater restoration effort has gone awry
More than a decade ago, a group known as the Mid-Mon Valley Cultural Trust was formed with the objective of reviving the once-popular Coyle Theater in Charleroi.
The objective was to repair, restore and reopen the historic landmark that dates back to 1891.
While the effort was noble and well-intentioned, it has never come close to succeeding.
Because of myopic vision, uninspired leadership, petty politics and an unwillingness to embrace new people and ideas, hope for the Coyle is fading fast.
Over the years, the Cultural Trust has raised just enough money to insure the building and repair the roof.
It has failed to rally the commnity, generate the necessary $2.5 million to fulfill the dream or even draw up a viable business plan.
The Cultural Trust has essentially become dysfunctional. Sadly, the “trust” in its name is gone.
A month ago, the bank account had dwindled to $100.50. The next insurance installment is coming due and the borough wants the sidewalk fixed in front of the theater and two adjoining buildings that the group owns along McKean Avenue.
As of two weeks ago, supposedly only three members comprised the board, not enough to convene a legal quorum to conduct business.
One was an original board member, Charleroi Mayor Nancy Ellis. Although her heart has always been in the project, she has been unable to grow interest and create the momentum necessary for such a challenging undertaking.
Another was Mark Smith, an insurance salesman and musician, who became a board member only several months ago.
He brought enthusiasm and represented badly-needed “new blood” eager to get things moving again.
Discouraged and frustrated, he resigned last week.
He said Ellis and state Rep. Pete Daley, D-California, failed to return repeated calls and e-mails as he and others sought information and tried to clear up confusion over the Cultural Trust's articles of incorporation.
Facing a fast-approaching deadline to raise matching money for a $250,000 state grant and to qualify for a $179,000 local grant, an ad hoc support group tried to reorganize and re-energize the Cultural Trust.
A “Jail Bail” in front of the Coyle and “Friends of the Coyle” funfest at Anthony's on the Mon, a Speers restaurant, netted about $4,000.
The Coyle Support Committee began weekly meetings, with John Mollenauer serving as facilitator. He's the former Charleroi Chamber of Commerce executive director and a respected civic leader.
Even if restoring the Coyle is feasible, he cautioned, “A golden monument does no good unless it's operational. The sustainability factor is critical, such as salaries for staff, performance costs, marketing, insurance, maintenance, utilities, etc.,” issues also left unaddressed.
Like Smith and several others, Mollenauer, too, has stepped back, frustrated by squabbling and poor business acumen.
I attended both of the support group's recent fund-raising events, took a “flashlight tour” of the now musty-smelling Coyle, whose electricity was turned off long ago, and sat in on a support group meeting in order to gain understanding and perspective for today's column.
I reached two primary conclusions for people who still think the Coyle can make a comeback and those who don't, skeptics who grouse, with increasing justification, “I'll believe it when I see it.”
First, there is hope, or there was hope.
The support group meetings attracted and recommended “shakers-and-movers,” supporters willing to help, people with the expertise, contacts and background who, working cooperatively, relentlessly and aggressively, faced good odds of success..
A few familiar names brought up included Nikki Sheppick, Susan Smith Sparks, the Rev. Ken Thompson, Jim Protin, Christine Cardinale, Joe Carrone, Chris Sepesy, Robert Rossi, Don Ruschak, Larry Cowell, Leland Calistri, Clara Pascoe, Armand Ferrrari and Brad Ferko.
That changed last week.
Ellis and a member said to have “come out of the woodwork” ignored those supporters and instead appointed friends and relatives said to be in her corner, including ones associated with California's Cal-Ed Federal Credit Union. Ellis is a member of the FCU's Supervisory Committee.
Second, it's now or never.
That has not changed.
With increasingly scarce public funds and grants available, the Cultural Trust can't afford to pass up the opportunity to bring nearly $400,000 of outside money to the project.
But the mistrust, personal differences and unpleasant experiences of the past have not been set aside for the greater good and common objective: Save the Coyle.
To his credit, Smith, who admits to having “stirred the soup,” created a “Friends of the Coyle” site on Facebook.
It has more than 1,400 followers who want to help or donate, although many of them have moved out of the area.
Charleroi and the Mid-Mon Valley couldn't have asked for a better second chance.
That chance has been squandered.
You may not agree.
Prove me wrong. Please.
Thought du jour- “Titanic” was one of the last movies shown at the Coyle. Was it an omen?
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Trueman sparks North Allegheny’s 14-0 victory over Seneca Valley
- High school roundup: Greensburg Salem shocks Gateway in opener
- Franklin Regional security guard fighting to get job back
- Thomas Jefferson runs past Ringgold
- Corbett team rails at pollster
- Jeannette rips Riverview in Class A debut
- Fumbling foreign policy
- Murray runs wild in Steel Valley victory
- Harrison shines again as Pirates clip Reds, 2-1
- Penn Hills takes advantage of turnovers, routs Upper St. Clair
- Steelers claim former Cowboys cornerback Webb