MANSFIELD - The dream of putting a multi-plex movie theater in downtown Mansfield is not dead, but it may have changed a bit, according to the Kevin Abrams, vice chairman of the Mansfield Downtown Development Corp., a group formed three years ago to pursue that dream.
The organization was formed following a university survey of students to determine what was most important to keep them coming back to Mansfield to finish their degrees, and the No. 1 item on that wish list was a movie theater.
After the borough moved its offices into a new location on South Main Street, the State System of Higher Education purchased the property the old building was on and had it demolished.
A former funeral parlor adjacent to the property also was purchased, with the idea of somehow using it as an energy education center/movie theater complex because of the development of the natural gas industry in the region.
A $3 million matching grant was secured, and the university's Student Government Association committed $1 million to the project for 10 years or more, leaving about a $1.2 million shortfall for the estimated $6 million complex.
For the energy education center, the idea is to bring the Marcellus Shale drillers on board, with an actual center that would be a tourism draw, said County Commissioner Mark Hamilton.
"Mansfield doesn't have anything downtown to bring travelers there. This would be a way to accomplish that and possibly get energy companies on board with funding," he said.
The lack of funding is one issue, but since then some other roadblocks have presented themselves, the first being a lack of parking downtown for such a project.
Borough ordinance requires a certain number of spaces per amount of seating capacity.
More recently, the lack of available water for any new projects has come to light, throwing a bigger roadblock into place.
A water search now is on by another newly formed "water task force" to locate a new water source for the borough and rapidly developing Richmond Township.
On Thursday a group of interested members of the MDDC and representatives from the university, gas industry and other community leaders gathered to hear the latest on the plans for the complex, which has gained state attention in the form of the State System of Higher Education.
According to MDDC member Bob Strohecker, who also sits on the university's board of trustees, the state system has "a real desire to form a town-and-gown relationship with all the 14 state-owned schools, starting with Mansfield as their demonstration town-gown project."
Strohecker reminded those in attendance there is a deadline for the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant that was obtained from the state with help from state Rep. Matthew E. Baker, R-Wellsboro, and state Sen. Joseph B. Scarnati III, R-Brockway.
"We may need to ask for an extension, because if the money not spent in a timely manner it could be lost," Strohecker said.