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Irwin to apply for loan to refurbish Main Street theater

| Friday, March 15, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Irwin officials will apply for a loan, seeking up to $150,000 as matching funds to rehabilitate the long-vacant Lamp Theatre.

The money would serve as a match to $250,000 in state funds and $250,000 in county funds, council President John Cassandro said.

Council approved the motion 6-0 on Wednesday. Councilwoman Joanna Jordan was absent.

Cassandro emphasized that council is not accepting money, nor are they making a commitment to refurbishing the 1937 theater — just considering it.

“We need to apply for the money,” Cassandro said.

Council is not obligating funds, member Bob Wayman said.

“We are only making application to determine the viability or eligibility to receive funds,” he said.

Cassandro said council is looking into buying the theater, which has sat vacant along Main Street since 2004. The Westmoreland Cultural Trust owns the theater.

Mike Langer, cultural trust president, said bids to rehabilitate the theater came in between $300,000 and $400,000 higher than expected, and the project stalled.

Cassandro said Irwin officials have met with cultural trust officials.

Council is taking the project one step at a time, he said.

“We're working on financing. We're working on acquisition of the building, even at this point beginnings of operating the theater — but none of that may ever happen,” Cassandro said.

He called the Lamp a “historic landmark” and “an important part of our history.”

“Council ... is very committed to economic redevelopment of our downtown, and the Lamp Theatre is a part of that,” borough manager Mary Benko said.

Relight the Lamp, a community group dedicated to reopening the theater, will continue to be a partner in the project, Cassandro said.

For more information about the Lamp, visit: relightthelamp.wordpress.com.

Rossilynne Skena is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6646.

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