A former car dealership in the heart of Sewickley could be the new location for a new two-screen movie theater.
In a press release, Village Theater Co., a Sewickley-based non-profit organization, announced the former Ascot Imported Cars Inc. site as a potential site for the theater.
Ascot on Walnut Street between the Sewickley Grille and Herbst Automotive has been idle for several years. The luxury franchise sold a variety of high-end vehicles, including Rolls-Royce, Lotus, Bentley and Mercedes. The shop closed in October 2010.
Village Theater, the group spearheading the effort to get the new theater up and running, engaged Forbes Trail Development Co., a Sewickley developer, to evaluate potential sites and offer guidance in the process.
The developer recently signed a purchase agreement, and is considering a mixed-use project to include the Village Theater's two-screen movie theater, a Class-A office building, and a residential component with other public amenities.
Kirsten Stripay, president of the board of Village Theater, said Forbes Trail president Peter Friday "knows the local real estate landscape extremely well and has provided invaluable help in scoping out the complexities of our project."
"For over eight months he has been evaluating multiple prospective sites, and his diligence has resulted in an exceptional opportunity for our theater plans," Stripay said.
Forbes Trail has been monitoring progress at the Ascot Motors site in order to be well positioned when the parcel became available for purchase.
The group said the availability of the site aligned perfectly with the theater initiative.
"Real estate development often requires great patience," Friday said, "and in this instance our patience has been rewarded with the opportunity to transform an abandoned eyesore into a mixed-use project that will enhance our community's quality of life while increasing retail activity and expanding the borough's tax base."
Village Theater and Forbes Trail are beginning to collaborate with Sewickley Borough on a public-private partnership involving infrastructure improvements, planning and financing.
The group announced in December plans to bring a family movie theater back to Sewickley that screens not only American independent and foreign films, but also second run and older films.
Preliminary plans are to prepare the site for development in the second quarter of 2012. Stripay said the start date will be directly tied to the success of fundraising efforts.
The board and a small group of supporters set a fundraising target of $3 million, initial capital that will enable the group to fund both theater construction and a minimum of six months of operations.
In addition to Forbes Trail, Pittsburgh Filmmakers, a 40-year-old non-profit arts organization, has been enlisted to advise, and potentially support long-term, the operations of a community theater.
The board insisted that the model being developed, with the help of experienced outside groups such as Pittsburgh Filmmakers, will work well for Sewickley.