After 8 years a vision realized

In May 2003 I walked into an abandoned and condemned building in the City of Hazleton. The sole survivor of nearly a dozen historic schools closed by the District between the mid 1980's and the year 2000, this building had been placed on the list of the 10 most threatened buildings in PA. The visit was a whim on my part, I had been commissioned to undertake a master planning study of all District buildings with an eye towards construction of a new 1,000+ pupil high school.
I had been told the building was collapsing, full of asbestos and in general a dangerous wood frame building. What I found was a gentle giant, who although stripped by treasure seekers with sledge hammers at the bequest of a prior school board, was a cast in place concrete solid building which along with a creative restructuring of several other District school was as ultimately renovated into an elementary for less money and a year sooner than a new new building.
Fast forward to last Sunday when I took my seat in the new Wiltsie Performing Arts Center. Although it had been my hope to renovate the 1,200 seat balconies auditorium in 2005-2005 when the rest of the building was converted on a fast track basis into a K-8 elementary school - budgetary limitations placed on the project by the School Board did not permit this space to be included. So although the building received the top commendation from Preservation PA for its restoration, my frustration remained acute with not being able to truly complete the project.
During the ensuing year after completion of the main school building - although locked by arcane state bidding laws - I was determined to see this building completed in its full glory. I was fortunate with the assistance of the local historical society able to locate, purchase, and donate back the 8' high solid brass wall sconce lights, chandeliers, arched doors, plaster Wall medallions, and other features that were irreplaceable. Buoyed by that success, with the help of talented folks at McKissick Associates was able to generate and donate to the recently formed "Castle Auditorium Committee" all of the initial brochures, seating charts, interior rendering, and web site materials used to start the discussion process. This ultimately snowballed through the efforts of community members ending up in over $3.5 million in state, federal, and local donations needed to make this vision a reality.
So I am really looking forward to the first formal performance which will occur over Thanksgiving weekend when the classic rock group Chicago will perform. Knowing that I was the catalyst that made this all possible makes it all worthwhile. And all of this will be happening in a building that had been written off and for which I was able to bring a vision to the community.
In the end, I guess that's why I am in this profession.

No comments: