An overall view of the State Theater on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019.

Organizers of the State Theater Re-imagination Project have officially started a nationwide search that they hope will result in finding a developer to bring new life to the historic venue located in downtown Johnstown.

Conemaugh Health System, which owns the property, city officials, the Discover Downtown Johnstown Partnership and Johnstown Redevelopment Authority released a request for proposal on Tuesday.

The goal is to find an operator for the 50,000-square-foot State Theater that first opened in 1926.

“Our interests are simply to work with a developer who has some innovative ideas and thoughts on how they could utilize that structure and make it – whether it’s an entertainment venue or mixed-use facility – to better serve the citizens of Johnstown,” said John Dubnansky, the city’s community and economic development director.

Interested parties have until April 1 to submit a proposal that includes project design, operations plan, rehabilitation costs, finance plan, team members and schedule. Proposals will then be viewed by the end of April with a selection made by June 1, although the city and Conemaugh have the right to not accept any proposals.

Conemaugh officials would like to see a renovated State Theater become part of a central business district that has seen some development in recent years.

“At Conemaugh we’re committed to Making Communities Healthier, and we’re certain a thriving downtown Johnstown will contribute to a vibrant and healthy region,” said Bill Caldwell, CEO of Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center and Market President, Conemaugh Health System. “A sustainable new life for the State Theater could be an important part of that redevelopment. To that end, we’ve been collaborating on this RFP process for the State Theater, and we’re eager to see the proposals that come back.”

The theater was opened to the public again – for the first time in about a half-century – during a pilot program in the spring of 2019 when a combined 1,500 people or so viewed nine movies: “Casablanca,” “Chariots of Fire,” “Cars,” “The Shining,” “The Godfather,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring,” “The Shawshank Redemption” and “Finding Nemo.”

“When Discover Downtown hosted the pilot month of movies in April of 2019, our goal was twofold – first, to provide a new entertainment option for the Greater Johnstown community during that month, and second, to use the pilot as a way to gauge interest from potential developers,” DDJP President Melissa Radovanic said. “The ultimate goal is for the State Theater to reopen on a permanent basis. There are a multitude of steps that need to take place but having a request for proposal available is the first step in the right direction.”

A similar movie series is planned for this spring.

Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5056. Follow him on Twitter @Dave_Sutor.

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