AVON – Movie lovers and patrons of the arts are ecstatic at the prospect of the Park Theater reopening as a full-blown movie and performing arts venue.
The Avon Village Board voted unanimously after Monday’s public hearing to apply for a $500,000 RESTORE NY grant to reimburse renovations to the Park Theater, which has been closed for about 15 years. The owner would have to match 10 percent of the total amount, if it is awarded.
“This is one of the catalysts that can help move this sail along,” said Avon Mayor Thomas Freeman. “The feedback from the public so far has been all positive. Seems like everybody wants to see the Park Theater return.”
Several local residents and public officials appeared at the public hearing in strong support of the grant application, including: the buildings current owner, Clark Rittersbach; a potential buyer, Ann Younger; Avon Historical Society President Bob Westfall; and Avon Chamber of Commerce Vice President Steve Harrison. Two village residents sent in letters of support for the application.
Rittersbach, a Pittsford resident, said that he has ‘kept the theater in one piece so it didn’t get destroyed.’
“We’ve been the keepers of the theater for many years,” said Rittersbach. “All of the original stuff is still there and intact. All the stuff from when it used to be used as a voting booth, back during Nixon, that stuff is still down there.”
Younger says she would like to restore the building to its use as a movie theater.
“A professional study was done on the property to help secure grants to fund needed repairs,” posted Younger on an online petition to restore the theater. “The study estimates it would cost roughly $150,000 to restore it, and that does not include possible hazardous material remediation such as for possible mold or asbestos.”
Nick Mazza, retired Livingston County Administrator, offered to bring his expertise to the table to help the grant application be successful.
“I’m offering my services to the Village to help this grant application be successful,” said Mazza. “I’m not looking for a job, not looking for a contract. This village has great strengths. We have a great school district. We have a great public library. We have great medical care. As a rural community, you don’t have to go very far to find communities that lack these things. Our weakness is our downtown. There are lots of vacancies. A vibrant downtown will lead to a better quality of life, and I’m not a believer in ‘if you build it, they will come.’ After renovating you have to create daytime foot traffic.”
Village Treasurer Christine Quinlan made it abundantly clear at the public hearing and meeting that the grant, if awarded, would not be for purchase but would be reimbursement for funds expended restoring the building and space. The grant is similar to that awarded to the Village for the Avon Inn.
Sign and facade and arts grants can still be pursued if the RESTORE NY grant is awarded.
The application is due Dec. 15.
“We’ve had a pretty good track record with Chrissy (Quinlan) at the helm,” said Freeman.