The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

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April 25, 2013

Ashtabula Senior Center moving into old bank building in fall

Council on Aging has no immediate plans for old Shea’s Theater

ASHTABULA — The Senior Center is moving to larger digs.

The Ashtabula County Council on Aging Board voted to accept Ashtabula businessman Ken Kister’s donation of the property at 4148 Main Ave. for use as a senior center, Troy Bailey, council president, said Wednesday.

“Plans for renovation and update of the building and property are currently in development,” Bailey said. “We have an architect that’s working with our restoration plans.”

The Council on Aging received a $247,000 grant to renovate the building. It’s anticipated that relocation will take place in early fall, Bailey said.

The Council on Aging owns the its present location — the Senior Center at 4632 Main Ave., (the old Shea’s Theater) and has no immediate plans for its use after the move, he said.

The old Shea’s Theater was built in 1949. M.A. Shea paid $1 million to build the 1,530-seat theater. The theater’s marquee became the focal point of downtown Ashtabula through the early 1960’s.

When the Council on Aging moved in several years ago, it closed off the theater portion of the building.

In January, several volunteers banded together to support the saving and restoring of the historical building to its original design. They call themselves the Saving Ashtabula’s History Organization and they have opened an office next to Loftus Books on Main Avenue.

They recently were granted a nonprofit status so they can accept tax-deductible donations. Their goal is to bring the community together and preserve Ashtabula’s historic buildings and landmarks.

Kris Hamrick is the founder of the group and Shea’s Theater is on his “to-save” list.

All this came about after a December meeting in which the Ashtabula Downtown Development Association invited theater restoration expert, Michael Hurwitz of Columbus, to speak about rescuing, restoring and returning Shea’s Theater to its former grandeur.

A crowd gathered at the Senior Center to hear Hurwitz speak. He complimented Shea’s architecture and was optimistic about the future.

Just about everyone in attendance was excited about renovating the old theater until Bailey stood up, on behalf of the Council on Aging, and said Council wanted to demolish the theater.

He called it “an albatross.”

Wednesday afternoon, Bailey emphasized the Council on Aging has no plans for the theater and that they have not heard from the Saving Ashtabula’s History group.

“I don’t know what they are doing,” he said.

No one from the group could be reached for comment.

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