The long-awaited expansion of the County Theater on East State Street, to be immediately followed by renovation of the iconic movie house in the heart of Doylestown Borough has begun. Officials said it’s anticipated to be a year-long project.
A recent meeting with theater and construction company officials and downtown merchants affected by the construction and the loss of 16 parking spaces, sounded a concerned, but cooperative note.
Gus Perea, CEO of the construction firm Adams-Bickel which is overseeing the multimillion dollar project, assured business owners that while the work will be disruptive, every effort will be made to ease the hardship as much as possible.
Asked if one side of the one-way street will remain open during the second phase of the project that includes renovation of the existing theater, Perea said, “I’m confident,” that can be done, adding, “that’s my goal.”
John Stoner, former director of The County, stressed, however, that he did not want to offer “false hope.”
Parking is a paramount concern for the small business owners who operate boutiques, hair salons, jewelry stores and restaurants along the busy downtown corridor. Sixteen spaces will be eliminated during the project, including two, 15-minute spaces. Contractors, he said, must park outside of the construction site.
Visitors will be directed to the free Bucks County parking garage on Broad and Union streets, a new two-level parking deck at Broad and Court streets, as well as the community’s other parking lots and meters.
“We’re all going to go through some pain,” Perea told the two dozen or so people at the meeting.
After the meeting, the second one to be held, Doylestown Mayor Ron Strouse, called the project, “the biggest downtown disruption we’ve ever had,” adding, he was encouraged by the “cooperative attitude.”
To help support the business community, banners will be placed along the construction zone fencing encouraging people to “Shop Local” and reminding visitors that the businesses are open. No specific stores will be advertised.
Other efforts will include a brochure business owners can give their clients that explains the project and how downtown will continue to be fully operational. Various social media outlets will also encourage ongoing business activities, Toner explained, and the theater will show video clips about the project and businesses prior to movies.
Doylestown’s popular festivals and other community events will be held, although some adjustments will be needed, said officials.
Demolition of the adjacent building has begun and removal of the debris is expected to take about two and a half weeks, said Perea. In February, the site will be prepared for the new building and in March, he said, “it will start to sprout.” Construction will extend into the fall and be completed by December. All of the timeline, is weather dependent,” he noted.
Once the additional theater is complete, renovation work on the “old” theater will begin.