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Goshen Theater Inc. nearing purchase of building

Goshen Theater Inc. and Downtown @ 808 could close sale by March



Posted on Feb. 6, 2014 at 1:03 p.m.

GOSHEN — Ownership of the Goshen Theater may soon change hands, as the group hoping to renovate the building plans to close on the sale of the historic theater sometime next month.

Gina Leichty, head of Goshen Theater Inc., said Tuesday night, Feb. 4 that the group and Downtown @ 808 church, the current owner, have agreed in principle to a sale price and could close by March.

Though she could not divulge the sale price, she said the church had been very reasonable and would be "taking a loss."

Leichty spoke Tuesday night before the Goshen City Council, requesting a $50,000 contribution towards the operation of the theater.

The Goshen Theater sits closed, but Leichty said the group would like to be able to keep it open while GTI raises the funds required to renovate the building.

The estimated cost of the full renovation is about $9.5 million, which will be raised through private donations and grants for which the organization applies.

GTI is in the process of applying for grants simply to get the theater back open and operating, which is expected to cost about $200,000 a year.

Many of the granting organizations GTI has approached have said the group must show there is local support for the project, which is why she approached Council Tuesday night.

"They have expressed a willingness to contribute if they see that there's actually community support there from our local government," Leichty said.

She added that if the money is there and things go well this year, GTI may return in 2015 to request another matching appropriation.

Despite a few reservations from some council members, they unanimously approved the $50,000 matching funds for this year only.

Council President Jim McKee and Councilman Everett Thomas urged caution in the future. They asked that Leichty bring a business plan if she were to return to ask for another $50,000 for operation next year.

McKee said he wants to look at a business plan to see whether or not, "down the road, is it viable?"

Councilman Jeremy Stutsman also suggested the city tread carefully with the project.

"I see this as a good investment here at this point," he said. "I want to be really cautious that the city not have any ownership."

The $50,000 will come from the Economic Development Income Tax (EDIT) fund, which Mayor Allan Kauffman said the city can afford.

"Not only can we afford to it, I don't think we can afford not to do this," he said.

The city, Kauffman said, has a chance to "show these other potential funders that we've got skin in the game and that we believe that this is an important project for downtown."

Aside from the appropriation from council, Leichty said GTI is also currently seeking a loan from the Redevelopment Commission for the purchase of the building.

The loan GTI is hoping for would cover 87.5 percent of the cost, with the rest to be covered by a combination of grants and private donations.

GTI believes it will be at least two years after the purchase that renovations will begin. Leichty said the theater will reopen as soon as the organization receives the funding necessary to operate the building and pay for immediate repairs.



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