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WEST CHESTER — It has been a long road for Uptown! Entertainment Alliance (UEA), ever since President Tom McEvoy and Treasurer Richard May thought it was time a performance theater returned to West Chester.
But turning an old National Guard Armory into a theater took more work than just renovations.
In fact, UEA hasn’t been able to even purchase the armory until it received the approval needed from the West Chester Borough Council, which is what happened Tuesday night with a unanimous 5-0 decision.
“We’re just absolutely thrilled,” said Angela Scully, development director for UEA. “It has been a long road. I think it was thoughtful and lengthy, but we’ve all arrived here together.”
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The armory, which was built in 1916, is in need of some renovations along with its transformation.
Though, as members of UEA have said, they don’t plan to demolish or drastically change the historic structure. The plan is to restore the building while turning it into a working theater.
In order to do that, UEA has estimated it will need $3.7 million and, as of the borough council’s approval, it is just north of $2 million raised.
“Now we can put up a sign and begin the final push,” Scully said. “We need people to acknowledge it’s real and it’s here. We want to be able to purchase that building on Dec. 18 and we need everybody to pitch in.”
To help raise the money, UEA — a nonprofit volunteer group – is looking toward the community.
Anyone can help in two ways: donate or attend a fundraiser.
“They can come to our fundraising event on Oct. 17 at the West Chester Alumni house or they just make an outright donation to Uptown! Entertainment Alliance,” Scully said.
The Oct.17 event is called Footlights & Fun Raising and is the fourth annual gala UEA puts on.
“The tickets are very reasonable and it will be a great time,” Scully said. “There will be a 10-piece band, so bring your dancing shoes. They have all been fun.”
The dinner and dance is Patriotic Casual, so make sure to wear red, white and blue. The food is All-American Classic fair and the band is The Sofa Kings. The gala is from 6:30 to 11 p.m. Tickets are $85 single and $80 for two or more.
Though the money isn’t fully raised, UEA already has a contractor lined up who is still a go when it purchases the building.
“We still have the architectural drawings,” Scully said. “They have said it’s going to take nine months. They have a clear plan and we’ll phase in the renovations.”
The plan is to have the grand opening a year from now, in the fall of 2016.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing how this is built,” said council member Ellen Koopman.
Borough council President Jordan Norley also expressed the same excitement.
“We’re looking forward to the project so very much,” he said.