Progress toward revitalizing the defunct and code-violation-plagued Lansdale performing arts center took another step forward Wednesday night.
The seven community and professional arts and entertainment members of the 11-member 311 West Main Task Force in Lansdale have been selected, but not yet notified as of Wednesday.
Council President Matt West announced at the start of the borough council meeting that 19 submissions came in for seven spots on the task force.
The task force is an 11-member board comprising borough Manager Timi Kirchner, three council members, four community members, and three from the arts and entertainment community.
West would not announce the seven selected because he personally had not contacted them yet. He said those 12 who were not selected were also not contacted as of Wednesday.
“Those two are in progress right now,” West said.
Nineteen submissions for seven spots was “very impressive,” said West.
“We had very highly qualified folks,” he said. “It was good that we had so many to choose from. It made our jobs that much more difficult.”
West did announce the three council members asked to serve on the task force: Mike Sobel, Mary Fuller and Mike Riccio.
“They are the three, along with Timi, who will represent the borough. And we expect good things from you all,” West said. “It’s exciting to get this thing going.”
The chair of the task force will end up being a council member, per the ordinance. Officers of the task force would be self-appointed, West said.
West said an announcement on the seven selected members would be made in a press release prior to the Oct. 17 business meeting.
“We want to be sure we are very deliberate with it,” he said. “We want to make sure everybody is still interested.”
For those 12 not selected, West wants to be sure they stay engaged in the process.
“We don’t want to say, ‘Hey, thanks for submitting, better luck next time.’ It’s very important, since this is such a complicated issue, to keep those folks in the fold,” he said. “We need to keep them engaged; we need to keep them participated.”
He said a letter will be drafted to send to those not selected announcing the first meeting date.
“Once the first meeting date is identified, we will notify those who were not selected and say, ‘This is our first meeting. We’d appreciate it if you do show up and stay involved.’ Even with the task force at 11, it’s a large task force. The more minds we have working toward the common goal, the better.”
West said that per the ordinance, he was the one naming the members to the task force.
“I did ask council members, as well as the borough manager, to bounce ideas off of me,” he said. “It wasn’t just me sitting alone making decisions. There was feedback.”
He called choosing seven out of 19 a “rather challenging task.”
“In thinking about formulating a task force, it’s such a complicated situation and such a complicated project, and so many people that are going to be named to the task force, you have to think strategically what types of people you want on the task force,” he said.
You don’t want a task force with all doers and idea people that are just there to figure out fundraising, he said. You don’t want all philosophical thinkers either, he said.
“You have to get a good sprinkling of everyday thinkers, the everyday doers and the strategic thinkers,” he said. “I’m telling you, it was very difficult.”
The four community members named to the task force must be from the North Penn School District. However, the three arts and entertainment members do not have that restriction.
“We wanted to make it eligible to any arts and entertainment professionals outside the region,” he said.
West would not say from how far away submissions came for the task force.
As far as the ex officio members on the task force, West said it was a way to have two organizations with a lot of connections both stay informed on the project and offer advice on the project.
“The county has a lot of energy and money invested in this project,” he said. “From our due diligence and our good faith efforts, through this entire process, we’ve kept them informed. We want to keep them in the loop and make them an ex officio member so that they can sit in the task force meetings.”
He said offering an ex officio membership to the Philadelphia Cultural Alliance came through with conversations with the county planning commission, and the commission promoting the alliance as a great organization with a lot of strategic connections.
“It would also help the county not think they are so isolated being the only ex officio members. If you have two ex officio members, it kind of motivates them both: ‘The county’s going to be there, the Philadelphia Cultural Alliance is going to be there, I need to make an effort to attend the task force,’” he said.
Furthermore, West said the great thing about the task force is it allows the opportunity to make subcommittees of the task force, like a construction subcommittee and a management subcommittee.
“Management was the problem with the center to begin with,” he said.
West said the first meeting of the new 311 West Main Task Force would “definitely” be by the end of the year, probably in October or November.
At this time, the borough holds the key to the former performing arts center since it owns the property. West said no one is physically allowed into the building because of code issues.