Adaptive re-use of a former church complex could give birth to the area's newest multipurpose center for music, arts, theater and education in downtown Tamaqua.
The exact configuration won't be known until the public offers input into selecting the optimum use of the former Salem Evangelical Church, 125 Pine St., Route 309, Tamaqua.
"Our hope is to develop a center open to everyone that could serve as a performance venue, art studio, instructional workshop and other similar creative uses," said Tamaqua Area Community Partnership executive director Micah Gursky.
The TACP acquired the property on Nov. 11, 2011, for $32,000, from Salem Church, which had owned it since 1949. The historic building dates back to 1880 and includes original layout, stained glass windows and Eastlake woodwork.
The property features three levels in the church building, each 2,747 square feet; a rear adjoining two-unit apartment annex; and an adjacent half double house.
All of the facilities are currently vacant but offer opportunity for rental income to offset operating costs of the yet-to-be-named center.
The rental units also hold potential for creation of an artists' colony at the site.
Popular Tamaqua musician Jack Kulp, 62, is volunteering his skills to develop the facilities' potential. Kulp is a retired civil engineer. Another volunteer is Tamaqua musician, songwriter and photographer Kathy Rimm, plus arts advocate Kevin Smith of McCoy Design, and TACP board member George Taylor.
The four have been spearheading the effort over the past several weeks and have reached a point where suggestions from the public are being sought.
"We want the community to be invested and to give their input," said Kulp, who noted that the facility will not be funded by tax dollars.
Kulp informally refers to the site as the Tamaqua Music and Arts Center, although that name is merely a working title for the sake of convenience, he noted.
One possible use, he said, is to provide a performance site for kids' bands, "because they can't perform in bars."
Rimm says the facility would provide a conveniently located venue for artists of all genres, such as performers, photographers, sculptors, you name it, and would draw on talent from throughout the region.
"The network for creative arts is already there," said Rimm, who also is a vocalist and instrumentalist.
The church includes three floors. The basement level also features a kitchen and large food-serving window in addition to open space.
Also included in acquisition of the property were an Allen organ, plus another organ and three pianos.
The main performance area likely would be the top level, with a secondary performance site at street level. Various smaller rooms potentially would serve as studios, offices, video centers or any similar capacity.
The lowest level, partially below ground, potentially would host ceramics, sculpting, arts and crafts or similar pursuits.
Much depends on needs to be identified by the general public and those interested in assisting with the birth of the community resource.
A community meeting and discussion about the potential use of the property is scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 12, at 2 p.m. inside the facility.
In advance of the meeting, interested persons are invited to stop in for a tour and to complete a short survey.
The tours will be held today, from 4-7 p.m.; Feb. 9, from 4-7 p.m.; and Feb. 11, from 3-6 p.m.
"Community involvement is essential for the success of this project. We hope lots of people will take an interest and come out to share their ideas," said Gursky.
Kulp and Rimm invite everyone to take part, and to stop at the facility to meet them and the others who've been dreaming about what the facility could mean for the Greater Tamaqua Area.
"Come on down. Come take a look at the place. Make suggestions and support it and make it happen," said Rimm.