The 311 West Main Street Task Force convened for its inaugural meeting Tuesday night, where they elected a chairman and vice-chairman and reviewed the structural integrity and conceptual plans for the former performing arts center.
Councilman Mike Sobel was elected chairman of the task force by unanimous vote. He was nominated by councilwoman Mary Fuller and seconded by Robert Willi.
Charles Booz, owner of , was unanimously named vice chairman, nominated by Fuller and seconded by council president Matt West.
Task force member Amy Rims nominated James “Royale” Collins. However, Collins said he would be willing to work with anyone.
“I’d like to take a crack at it,” said Booz.
Each member introduced himself and herself, and provided insight as to why they wanted to be on the task force.
Doug Pett is director of engineering for two regional hospitals. His responsibilities include facility operations and construction management. Through previous work experience, Doug is knowledgeable on compliance with regulatory agencies.
“My background is extensively in healthcare operations and facilities construction. I’ve been doing that for roughly 12 to 14 years now,” Pett said. “I’m interested in this because I think I could give a hand to the community with construction renovations and taking a look at what needs to be done with this. I’m excited to be here.”
Lindsay Schweriner holds a bachelor’s degree in music as well as an MBA in music management. She currently works as an Artist Representative for Baylin Artists Management.
“I grew up in the area and I am a classically-trained violinist. I was a 10-year member of the Allentown Symphony before I went back to school for business,” she said. “I have worked in the music business at Columbia Artists Management and Young Concert Artists in New York before coming back here.”
Schweriner said she handles a roster of dancers, actors and musicians at Baylin Artists Management.
“I handle their touring and a lot of logistics and technical aspects of what it takes to get an artist on stage and performing successfully,” she said.
Robert Willi is a member of Crossroads Community Church and serves as a board member for the Love in Action Committee. He also leads the Helping Hands Committee in his church. Willi is a committeeperson for the Lansdale Democratic Party and Montgomery County Democratic Party.
Willi thanked council for forming the task force.
“I really do believe something good’s going to come out of this,” he said. “I’ve lived here in Lansdale of 16 years now. I’m not a classically-trained violinist, I don’t work in construction, but I do feel that, as a resident of this borough, I’d like to see something come here that we can be proud of, something that when we go down Main Street we say ‘That’s exactly what we want.’”
Amy Rims is a certified art teacher and is an ABA therapist for children with autism spectrum disorders. She is a member of the North Penn Art Alliance and has many contacts with talented artists, musicians and thespians living in the North Penn area.
“I’ve been organizing some local art events recently. I’m looking forward to doing Fun A Day in January where I’m getting a bunch of artists together every day and we’re going to create something, and have a big show in February,” she said. “I’m excited to get a bunch of artists doing stuff together. I think if we have a central location, it would be awesome.”
James “Royale” Collins is a comedian and producer of comedy shows and community theater. He lives in Towamencin.
“When thinking about this particular project and what I envision of this project moving forward … I had asked myself early on, in my comedic career when I started entertaining, what type of entertainer do I want to be? What kind of performer do I want to be? What do I want to be known for? And that’s kind of where we are now with this project,” he said.
Collins said he gives back to the community because he not only pursues what he enjoys, but also provides a service to the people around him.
“Being provided a talent or gift or whatever you have to offer, it s a responsibility for you to share that and do as much as you can to not only help yourself, but also those around you, to make your entire situation better,” he said.
“So as we talk about the 311 Main Street project, one of things I’d like to see is it becomes an epicenter for the community,” he said. “This theater becomes part of Lansdale’s brand. When people think of Lansdale, they don’t just think of strong communities and great education and a place where they would like to raise their children, but they also think of a place where if I want to go out for evening, I have a nice cultural event I could go to. It’s somewhere where I can go see some art, or go see some comedy, or listen to some music, or somewhere where I can send my kid to be educated in the finer arts that help to enrich the community as a whole.”
Sobel introduced himself as a Ward Two councilman, serving two years on the board. Sobel chairs the public safety committee and serves on the parks and recreation and library committees and is the civil service commissioner for Lansdale.
“I have a vision of what can we do with the downtown destination for the town,” he said. “I think I can try to help the community along by getting involved in this.”
Fuller is a councilwoman from Ward Two. She chairs the parks and recreation committee and the economic development committee. She is also vice president of the library committee and sits on the public safety committee.
“I was part of the original 311 West Main Street Task Force, and I’m happy to carry over and continue,” she said. “This project is near and dear to my heart. I’m interested in seeing where we can go with it. I’m anxious to have input and I’m glad to be able to offer input from whichever side I can be a part of.”
Dawn Harvey is a professional actress with experience in theater, film and television. She received her bachelor’s degree in theater from Rowan University and furthered her education at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, MA. She has experience producing films and theater productions.
“I am the founder of Lansdale Theatre Works and I produced ‘The Miser’ at the performing arts center about a year ago,” she said. “I think Lansdale has enormous potential to be a shopping, dining and tourist destination, and I’m glad to be a part of this. I’m excited to get to work.”
West is council president and councilman in Ward Three. His intention is to be an interim member of the board until January “when the elections take place and we see who’s on the board.”
“In a former life, I was also a quasi-pro musician. Don’t look it up. Yes, it was rock and roll. Yes, I did have blond hair,” he said. “I do have an interest in creating a destination in the downtown, and I’m excited you all agreed to participate.”
Booz said he could bring a retail perspective to the task force.
“I have a passion for Lansdale. I have drive and I do have a lot of energy,” he said. “I thank Matt and the rest of the crew for inviting me. I promise we will get this thing going. It’s important to the community; it’s important to us,” he said. “I think it will make Lansdale stand out.”
Borough manager Timi Kirchner said Nancy DeLucia, director of policy and community engagement for the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance and Brian O’Leary from the county planning commission will serve as ex-officio members of the task force.
“I’ve been working in this area for the last eight years. I’ve been coming up to Lansdale and working in other communities like Pottstown, Lansdowne, and a lot of older boroughs in our region,” she said. “Our organization has worked with many groups that have projects to bring to councils or performance facilities to bring to their communities.”
O’Leary administers the revitalization program of the planning commission, which is going on strong for 12 years.
“The goal of the revitalization program is to bring vibrancy back to our old communities and our old downtowns,” he said. “One of the big ways we are doing that has been to support arts and culture facilities. That’s why we supported this project in the past and I do want to see something happen in the future.”
He said the commission is particularly interested in venues that would bring customers and visitors to the downtown and have spin-off effects on downtown areas, encouraging restaurants and other businesses to come into play.
“We’ve seen it happen. We know it can happen in Montgomery County,” he said. “Certainly, in Ambler, with two theaters there, we’ve seen great progress there and a complete change of its downtown. Lansdale has great potential for revitalization.”
Kirchner said Lansdale parks and recreation director Carl Saldutti would also serve as staff to the task force.
“Carl is well connected in the field,” Kirchner said. “I have asked him to serve as staff to this group, so that he can bring his talents and knowledge to the group as we move forward. He will be tasked with working with the group every step of the way and eventually the consultant we will be bringing on board. I have lot of respect for Carl and I think he brings a lot to the table.”
Sobel, as chairman, thanked everybody on the task force and the audience in attendance.
“It’s going to be massive undertaking. I think if we all put our heads together and work diligently on this, we’re going to make this work very, very well,” he said. “We’re going to have to roll up our sleeves and work a little bit here.”
He said he wished he had a blackboard behind him, because what’s behind him in his imagination is a clean slate for the building and task force.
“I don’t want to get into any bashing or talk about the past. It’s happened. It’s history. We’re not even interested in that anymore,” he said. “This is what we have to work with. What can we do to make it right? The possibilities are endless.”
He said nothing gets done in the building with Fire Marshal Jay Daveler’s approval. He will make decisions on public safety and will be kept in the loop.
The most important thing is everybody has a vision of the building, and the task force is here to listen.
“We need community involvement here. We have a whole bunch of different ideas, different views, different points of view,” he said. “We will work with architects or experts with what’s feasible. It’s very, very hard to channel into one common goal and that’s a solution of what we need to do with this building.”
Kirchner then reviewed the ordinance with the task force, .
She said the most important aspects of the task force are the following three things:
- Formulate recommendations and advise Borough Council on correction of the identified structural issues pertaining to applicable building codes and limitations of the structure itself.
- Formulate recommendations and advise Borough Council on development of the facility that could support a wide range of programs for the varied needs of the Lansdale community including fine and performing arts programs as well as gatherings and events for neighborhood and community groups such as meetings, open houses, educational forums and various other social events. The goal is to make the Facility a downtown destination that will promote the economic vitality of the Borough. The recommendations should consider the role of the public sector and the role of the private sector in the development of the facility.
- Formulate recommendations and advise Borough Council on the implementation of future management for 311 West Main and formulate recommendations related to the role of the public sector and the role of the private sector in the future management of and ultimate success of 311 West Main as a multi-purpose facility with a diversity of programs for the varied needs of the Lansdale community.
“Welcome aboard everyone,” she said. “This is our team.”
Sobel said the team is going to have great participation from the community.
“I think we’re going to do just fine,” he said. “Let’s get ready and let’s go.”