By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News
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Envision they did, in Wednesday night's public forum on the fate of downtown's shuttered Lincoln Theater.
The Port Angeles Arts Council, a nonprofit, nongovernmental group, hosted what became a unified conversation at Studio Bob, 118½ E. Front St., with Haight keeping some 40 attendees on topic: What are the best possibilities for the 98-year-old cinema, which closed March 2?
“Think of sitting around with friends at a dinner table,” she began. Then Haight, an artist and teacher, grouped attendees into clusters and invited them to voice their ideas about what the Lincoln might become.
A performing arts center, a classic-movie venue, a concert hall, a dance center, a space for lectures, author readings and even touring shows: These reincarnations rose to the top of the ensuing discussion while Amy McIntyre, Arts Council president and facilitator of one of the clusters, reported that her group wanted the new Lincoln to be “the heart of the community.”
Then a reporter asked Dan Gase, a Coldwell Banker Uptown Realty agent and City Council member, about the theater's pending arrival on the open market.
Immediately, Gase, who said earlier this week that he was in talks with Sun Basin Theatres, the Lincoln's Wenatchee-based owner, pulled out a folder full of fliers.
It's listed now, Gase said, for $259,000.
The three-screen cinema at 132 E. First St. comes with 340 theater seats on the main floor and 179 more seats upstairs, according to the fliers he proceeded to hand out.
With a total of 519 seats, the Lincoln is larger than several of the North Olympic Peninsula venues — and “you could make money,” said Scott Nagel, whose Olympic Peninsula Community Celebrations firm produces the Dungeness Crab & Seafood Festival every October.
Nagel, sitting next to Gase in one of the discussion groups, quickly added he does not have the funds to take on the Lincoln.
Gase said he'd already shown the property to a local person Wednesday afternoon.
There are constraints on the use of the Lincoln. One is the non-compete clause Sun Basin Theatres will add to any sale or lease of the property. The new operator will not be permitted to show first-run movies.
Sun Basin General Manager Bryan Cook has said second-run or classic movies would be allowed, but not the new releases shown at the company's Deer Park Cinema just east of Port Angeles.
Bringing the Lincoln Theater into fuller compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act could be costly, as might other restoration work on the vintage 1916 building. There's no elevator, Gase said, and the restrooms are down narrow stairways.
But we're not here to talk about constraints, Haight reminded the group. She urged the conversations toward stakeholders: the many people and businesses a new Lincoln would affect.
Each cluster listed all of the entities they could think of, from tourism and transportation companies to other downtown entrepreneurs to the Esprit conference and the Juan de Fuca Festival of the Arts.
Port Angeles' reputation as an interesting place to live or visit is at stake, too, attendees said.
Next, Haight announced another task: We can either package our visions and give them to whoever buys or leases the Lincoln, or we can form our own group and raise the money to acquire it ourselves.
The Port Angeles Arts Council could tackle all of this at its June 4 meeting, Haight added.
With that, Lauren Jeffries-Johnson, owner of Udjat Beads in downtown Port Angeles and co-founder of the Shula Azhar dance troupe, suggested something sooner.
“If we could get a Kickstarter campaign going, we could generate a buzz,” she said, referring to the crowd-funding site www.kickstarter.com.
“Maybe it's just me,” Jeffries-Johnson said, “but let's go.”
Arts Council President McIntyre responded that a follow-up meeting could be set up sooner and said that when details are firm, she'll announce the time and place on the council's Facebook page and at www.portangelesartscouncil.com.
As the forum wrapped up a little after its planned ending time of 7:30 p.m., McIntyre said she was “thrilled” with the way it played out.
“I think people came with open minds,” she said.
“We started a conversation,” and such discussions are tremendously important, McIntyre believes, for community morale.
Vickie Dodd, another local artist who helped facilitate, remarked on the unity she saw in people's vision of the Lincoln as a community arts center.
“People say, 'Nothing can happen here,'” Dodd added.
“I'd like to see that take a quantum shift.”
Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5062, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.