Charleroi mayor steps down from beleaguered theater board

September 11, 2013
With restorations to the Coyle Theater in Charleroi stalled for more than a decade, the board that owns the building is moving in a new direction to bolster the project. - Scott Beveridge / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

CHARLEROI – The mayor of Charleroi stepped down this week as chairman of a nonprofit organization that has struggled for more than a decade to raise money to restore an historic theater in the borough.

Barry Cassidy, a consultant appointed by the Mid Mon Valley Cultural Trust to seek money for the Coyle Theater project, confirmed Charleroi Mayor Nancy Ellis is no longer associated with the trust.

“The trust has no comment,” Cassidy said.

Ellis has since 2002 led the trust, which purchased the building at 331 McKean Ave. originally built in the late 1890s as a burlesque house. The Coyle family later converted it into a 1,000-seat movie theater, which closed in 1999.

By 2009, the trust owed $14,000 in unpaid property taxes. In January, the Washington County Redevelopment Authority pulled a nearly $180,000 grant from the local share of the pot at The Meadows Casino in North Strabane Township from the trust because it failed to show it had raised enough money to see the work through.

Ellis, who resigned Monday, was replaced as trust chairman by Adele Pireaux, Cassidy said.

Cassidy said the trust will recruit new board members and focus immediately on raising $60,000 to replace the theater’s leaking roof. The building has no electricity and a basement holding water.

He said borough council plans to approve an arts and economic development strategy he developed around the downtown enterprise zone, which offers eligible investors tax credits.

“We’re going to utilize those credits on getting artists to locate in the downtown,” Cassidy said.

He said an arts community would help to improve the outlook for supporting a theater.

The trust also is preparing to kick off a capital fundraising campaign and apply for a $500,000 zero-interest state loan to raise $1.4 million to reopen the building.

“We’re going to go on,” he said.

Ellis could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Scott Beveridge is a North Charleroi native who has lived most of his life in nearby Rostraver Township. He is a general assignments reporter focusing on investigative journalism and writing stories about the mid-Mon Valley. He has a bachelor's degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a master's from Duquesne University. Scott spent three weeks in Vietnam in 2004 as a foreign correspondent under an International Center for Journalists fellowship.

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