Asbestos removal underway at former Schine Theater

Massena Arts and Theater Association President R. Shawn Gray talks about plans for the former Schine Theater during a 2015 event when the association announced the nonprofit group had officially purchased the downtown theater. Bob Beckstead/Johnson Newspapers

MASSENA — Another step has been taken in the restoration of the former Schine Theater in downtown Massena.

The Massena Arts and Theater Association secured Main Street Grant funding to complete asbestos removal, and that work began on Monday.

“The entire theater is being cleaned out as we speak,” association Vice President Nathan Lashomb said. “Unfortunately, it will just cover asbestos removal.”

He said the asbestos removal will take about 45 days.

Massena Arts and Theater Inc. became the official owner of the former Schine Theater in 2015. The group purchased the theater from MPG Development LLC for $95,000 in a property sale that was recorded June 2, 2015 in the St. Lawrence County clerk’s office.

The group had worked for more than two years to secure funding to purchase and renovate the historic downtown landmark at 65 Main St.

Since then, the volunteer nonprofit group has been working to raise money to restore the building and bring the entertainment venue back to life.

Mr. Lashomb said the building was closed in the late 1990s and had been sitting vacant until it was purchased by the Massena Arts and Theater Association. While it was sitting vacant, several problems developed, such as water damage, backed up drains and damage from having no heat while it sat vacant.

While it may not be evident on the outside, he said the association has been making slow, steady progress inside the building.

“I’ve been on this group about six years, and last year we’ve made small big steps,” Mr. Lashomb said. “We would like to see the marquee go up, but there’s a lot to be done before that happens. We’re getting there. The best part about this phase is that once we have a clean building, there are fewer barriers for us to get more grant funding. We haven’t been able to apply for new grants until this is finished.”

“(President) R. Shawn Gray has done a huge amount of work on this theater project and deserves to be recognized,” he added.

He said one of the problems they face is that much of the grant funding is designed for programming and not restoration efforts.

The group’s goal is to restore the building, not just for movies, but also as a performing arts center. They continue to raise funds and have set up a GoFundMe account to take donations. The fundraising page can be accessed by visiting the Massena Schine Theater Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Massenaschinetheater/.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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