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County Theater slates meeting to discuss construction impact

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The County Theater in Doylestown hosts a meeting at 6 p.m. tonight, Thursday, Jan. 9, to discuss its multi-million dollar expansion project, its schedule, parking, and any and all issues that will affect the downtown.

Construction for the nonprofit theater’s expansion project began Monday, the same day the theater hosted the first of two meetings this week, the first in borough hall. Tonight’s meeting will be held at the theater.

While the meetings are primarily for merchants, borough residents and all theater members are invited.

For the construction project, fencing has been installed in front of the theater and the neighboring former Poor Richards into which the theater is expanding. The work necessitates the temporary elimination of all parking spots on that block of East State Street, between Donaldson and Main streets, likely through the end of 2020.

John Davis, Doylestown Borough manager, urged drivers to leave extra time to find parking and to utilize borough and county parking lots located in the borough.

“The best we can say is be patient. “It’s going to be inconvenient for a time, no doubt,” he said.

A county-owned lot, at the corner of Broad and Court streets, which is currently under construction, is expected to help ease the burden of reduced on-street parking by adding approximately 150-spaces, available for evening and weekend parking upon completion. During the day, on weekdays, it will be used for the county administration building employees.

“We’ve been excited about it, and obviously it couldn’t come at a better time,” Davis said. “They seem quite close. It shouldn’t be long, but we don’t quite have a firm date.”

Davis said approval of the project for the two-story parking deck on land formerly occupied by a parking lot included the conditions that parking for the public be made available evenings and weekends and parking in that lot can’t be priced higher than meters on the street. He said a decision on whether to charge has yet to be made, however.

Davis said a loading zone on the block where the theater is located will be available for deliveries to the construction site and to local businesses, as well as for quick pickups at the coffee shop.

In addition, he said, “We’re looking at adding additional 15-minute spaces to replace the two that were displaced. We’re meeting with merchants and the theater about that.”

He said the borough and the theater are keeping the lines of communication open with the public and will make adjustments as they can.

The County Theater purchased the “Poor Richards” property in 2016. Fundraising for the project had reportedly reached half of the $4.25 million needed Monday.

The new space will include a new auditorium, a new, larger lobby with an expanded concession stand, and a complete set of first-floor bathrooms. The existing historic theater will stay the same, but will receive new, larger, more comfortable seats and other upgrades.

The third stadium-style auditorium will feature 180 seats for more main attractions, more foreign and classic films, and more special events like theater and opera. There will also be a small stage for discussions and presentations.

A new box office will get members and other patrons out of bad weather and serve them with multiple ticket sellers, although the old box office will be retained. Movie-goers will continue to enter the County through the original theater doors.

The new addition is slated to open in December. After it opens, the historic 1938 theater will close for renovations and repairs, from January to June 2021.

The work will include a new sound separation wall between the existing auditoriums, new carpet and paint, facade repairs, and new seats with more legroom.

The historic theater will then be connected to the new addition and reopened, and there will be a gala launch party grand opening celebration in 2021.

jarthur@buckscountyherald.com


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