21 Aug 2014
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Mayor: 311 W. Main Focus Should Be Arts, Not Building

Lansdale Mayor Andy Szekely disagrees with 311 W. Main recommendation in a letter to the editor

Mayor: 311 W. Main Focus Should Be Arts, Not Building

Dear Lansdale Resident:

As Wednesday’s Council meeting approaches, there is a motion on the agenda to recommend the acceptance of the 311 Task Force’s recommendation to move forward with a single phase renovation of the building.

While I support the arts and I am in favor of some sort of venue for the arts in Lansdale, I am writing this letter stating my disagreement with the single phase proposal put forth by the 311 Task Force for the following reasons:

  • The consultant, AMS, hired — for $48,500 — indicated a preference for a conservative, phased approach to rehabilitation of 311 West Main St.
  • Lindsay Schweriner, the most experienced member of the Task Force who works full time in the arts management field, expressed her opinion that a phased approach was also best in that this was the best way to regain the trust of the residents and arts organizations of the Borough.
  • Brian O’Leary, section chief of the Montgomery County Planning Commission, also indicated his position that a phased conservative approach also be adopted. 
  • In the course of their study, AMS surveyed 94 arts organizations in the area of which only 7 responded that they are interested in inhabiting the arts center. How will an architect know how to design a building based on 7 interested parties? And why would we spend up to $3.8 million on a building that does not know who its inhabitants will be or what their needs will be? A facility will have different design considerations for opera, for garage bands, for cabaret, for meeting rooms and for theater to name a few.
  • The conversation continues to focus on the building and NOT the arts which is the proverbial cart pulling the horse.

There is a desire to further rehabilitate 311 West Main Street into an arts center, which is admirable, but I firmly believe—as do the most experienced members of the Task Force INCLUDING THE CONSULTANT — that a PHASED, CONSERVATIVE, ORGANIC, GRASSROOTS approach to rehabilitating 311 West Main Street is the best way to understand the need for an arts venue in Lansdale. As we have seen from the past, committing the money first without a concrete plan is foolish.

Andy Szekely
Mayor of Lansdale

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