So, who wants to run 311 W. Main Street in Lansdale?
AMS Planning and Research revealed Thursday night to the 311 W. Main Task Force and five residents in attendance there is no major interest from local organizations to use the 311 W. Main Street location, but there is a demand that needs to be met in a non-competitive market.
That demand is mainly film, music and visual arts.
"Theere is general community support for the concept," said AMS Planning and Research Principal Michele Walter. "There is definitely an endless supply and demand for the facility. User product demand is limited. There's not a huge list of people that said they are interested."
The venture won't be successful, however, without leadership and partnership.
The number one recommendation Walter gave the task force was to establish a non-profit and identify leadership.
"Something new will have to get created to be successful," Walter said. "Where is the leaership coming from to carry this ball down the field?"
Task Force member Lindsay Schweriner asked "How do we move forward in finding leaders?"
Walter said "probably through kitchen cabinet, back room conversations."
"At a certain point, leadership has to turn to leadership," she said.
Walter said if users who aren't interested now in the proposed community center become interested once a leader is chosen, then those users are simply receptors.
"Plenty will come out of the woodwork once they realize it's real," Walter said.
Task force member Doug Pett cautioned the task force: You can't have an "if you build it, they will come" attitude.
"I'm all for it," he said. "But it's high demand by the public and a low supplier."
Pett said a business plan is needed either way. That business plan will be presented August 9, Walter said.
Walter said leadership would need to get things done, like raise money, supervise construction, hire staff, create programs and raise seed money.
Earlier in the meeting, Walter and Lynette Turner from AMS Planning gave a report of comparable community and arts centers in other states that are similar to 311 W. Main.
A main point Walter made to the task force was competition is not a big factor for this project.
Furthermore, a market analysis suggested there can be a positive relationship with participation.
However, diversity of arts and offerings is critical.
"We know only dance or only theater is not what people are interested in," Walter said. "There's a lot of interest in having music. Film is up there. There have been a lot of requests for film."
The survey showed first-run films is not what people want, Walter said.
"Using it for creative films. Festivals, cult movies and creative film programs," she said.
Borough Manager Timi Kirchner liked that, according to Walter and Turner, there is a tremendous amount of community interest to pay attention to in this project.
"It's not only community leaders," Walter said, "it's people willing to roll up their sleeves and do the fundraising that's necessary."
Aside from leadership, partnership is the deuteragonist in this situation.
The leadership of 311 W. Main Street could partner with the North Penn Arts Alliance and Theater and Kids, Walter said.
"(Theater and Kids) said they do not want to run it. They do a lot of activities and are spilling out of their space. There is a need," Walter said.
Places like the North Penn Boys and Girls Club and Lansdale Parks and Recreation are two partners to provide content and work at a financial arrangement where everybody wins, she said.
The partnership, Walter said, means the risk is shared.
Partnership and leadership then lead to revenue, suggested as membership programs, annual special events and fundraising.
"You need to approach this eyes wide open. It will set the stage for (the center) to be recurringly successful," Walter said. "If you move forward with a capital program, those are your future donors."
To make the center viable and profitable, AMS Planning preliminarily suggested breaking the project into two phases.
The first phase focuses on fixing code issues with the lower level, ground level performance space and ground level lobby and hallways. These areas would serve as classrooms, venues for musicals, comedy shows, lectures and films and gallery space, respectively.
If successful, then phase two is refurbishment of all the rest of the space.
Task Force Chair Mike Sobel said the project needs "baby steps." Walter said just the contrary.
"It's a big step, and then another big step," she said. "The activity we see warrants these spaces. We don't see enough demand or readiness to take advantage of everything in the whole project."
Councilwoman and Task Force member Mary Fuller asked if there is enough desire and interest for both phases to succeed.
"Do I think you should do this? Yes. Do I think you have to take a leap of faith? Yes," said Walter. "It's (all about) your leadership at the end of the day."
Task Force member Robert Willi said nothing can be done until the task force determines where the money is coming from to make repairs to the center. He said the task force should be looking at financial solutions - such as various construction grants, as suggested by resident Heather Feerrar - while working around finding a leader and partners.
"Before we do anything, we have to start getting funds. We seem to be dancing around it," Willi said. "We have to get money up and get rolling. Without it, we are just talking."
Pett said that comes after the business plan. He said a non-profit and its board of directors need ot be established before any entity will give funding for the center.
"The big thing I heard is (taxpayers) don't want to pay for it," Pett said.
Willi said he heard the contrary.
"They don't mind giving money to it, but they don't want the borough to dump money into it," Willi said.
Kirchner reiterated that a business plan and a core group of representatives of the community will give confidence to grantors.
"There's no money unless we establish a board of directors and a business plan," Kirchner said. "Grantors will not give us money unless they see there's some local commitment."
Task force member James Collins said people won't give money to something that they know nothing about. He compared it to asking someone to contribute $1 million to a building, whose owners have to idea what it is.
"The phase part allows organizations to see what's going on, to see we are serious, to see it's functional, to see it moving forward," Collins said. "There needs to be direct and focused leadership."
AMS Planning and Research will present its final feasbility study to the task force in September 2012.
Collins urged residents to talk to their neighbors and friends about the project, and requested a concerted effort to invite them to the next few "pretty critical" meetings.
Fuller agreed, saying now was the time for people to have their input and voices heard.
Kirchner said the task force is "not taking an unclear approach to this."
"We must do this right this time. We've got to get the right information," she said, "and we have got to hear what people have to say."
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