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Town wants theater reopened

Grant to pay for consultant

By Alex Bridges

Strasburg has stepped in to help the private sector revive the town's historic theater after a failed attempt to reopen the landmark.

The town has received a $20,000 planning grant from the Virginia Housing and Development Authority to pay a consultant to conduct a feasibility study of the Strasburg Theater, 151 W. King St.

Kimberly Murray, economic development and planning manager for Strasburg, said Tuesday the town saw the need to assist private owners in finding a way to reopen or reuse the theater.

"That's exactly why we got involved," Murray said. "It's because the town can be a facilitator, can bring the parties together.

"We might be able to find an investor that might be able to purchase it and someone who might be able to run the programmatic side of it and bring people together and play a role in that," Murray added.

The project scope includes exploration of the opportunities available to the town and owners that would help revive the theater.

So far private ownership has failed to keep the theater open. Richard Perryman attempted to rehabilitate and reopen the theater in 2012. That effort fell through by late the following year. The theater operated as a venue for live music and other events for a few years prior to closing and remained vacant before Perryman entered the picture.

This effort does not involve the town buying property, Murray explained. Discussions about the project among town leaders will likely remain open.

"Because the town is working on the project we're always open to the public for input of any kind," Murray said. "Because this is one of the anchors in our community we do have an interest in seeing it be successful."

Strasburg, as a municipality, has access to public grant money otherwise unavailable to private firms that the town could use to further the effort, Murray said. These grants, if awarded, could help the town rehabilitate the theater or make other capital improvements to the theater.

The grant includes a housing component. Murray said the potential exists to build a couple of apartments in the second story of the theater at the front of the building. The study would explore ways to deal with theater noise possibly affecting the apartments.

The Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission worked with Strasburg to issue a request for proposals seeking a consultant who can use the planning grant to complete a study of how best to market or reuse the property. Proposals were due Tuesday, Murray said. The commission and town officials will review the proposals and select a consultant. Information about the commission's response to the request for proposals was not available Tuesday.

The Virginia Housing and Development Authority runs a mixed-use, mixed-development planning grant program that provides planning and technical assistance for municipalities looking at redevelopment projects that combines housing and other uses for properties. Keith Sherrill, community housing officer with the agency, said the grant is "the next step in a planning process that Strasburg's been doing in their downtown to try to encourage some revitalization and address some vacancies and underutilized properties in the downtown area."

"This particular grant is not specifically targeting the theater building," Sherrill said. "What they're doing is to target a handful of buildings. Collectively they see an opportunity for mixed-use development."

Martha Shickle, executive director of the regional commission, said the agency plans to work with the town to see if competitive proposals were received and prioritize the submissions based on quality and cost estimates.

"We want to get moving on this, so it's a priority for us at the commission," Shickle said. by email.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com

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