Updated: Oct 29, 2019
There's nothing like passionately laboring through a project, wondering if your energy and dedication is being noticed outside one's local circle, only to receive affirmation that indeed it is.
That's exactly how we felt when Mycelia Development was granted $1.3 million in funding through PA’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital (RACP) program. The RACP is administered by Governor Wolf’s Office of the Budget and was advocated for us by Senator Elder Vogel, Chief of Staff Josh Konecheck, and Rep. Aaron Bernstein as well as most of our local officials. Awards grants are for the construction of regional, economic, cultural, civic, recreational and historical improvement projects.
Once again in lay terms, please?
We are building the Portobello Cultural Life and Arts Center in Beaver Falls, and the state is in full support.
It's a beautiful day in this neighborhood
"This project has been such an amazing adventure," shares Renee Suhr, CEO of Mycelia Development. "I’ve started calling it 'The Little Engine that WILL!' because are we super determined to be a part of the powerful revitalization that is coming to Beaver Falls."
The creation of the Portobello building will fulfill this eager community’s requisite for a long-term cultural and civic space, providing not only a place to gather for "community directed programming", but jobs through housing a performing arts black box theater/event space, meeting rooms, visual art gallery, pottery studio, fresh food café/catering and handmade artisan market.
And the Portobello isn't alone, but rather part of an exciting, larger landscape of culture creation in Beaver Falls.
A beautiful day for a neighbor
Indeed, the Portobello building, designed as a new cultural hub in the heart of downtown Beaver Falls, will be in good company as much of downtown Beaver Falls experiences revitalization.
Renee continues, "Near to our project will be the Innovation Hub (led by Penn State Beaver), and the "Neighborhood North: Museum of Play" in the (hopefully) refurbished News Tribune Building. The Carnegie Library is also in the midst of renovations, as is Rt. 18/7th Ave., so Beaver Falls will be a whole new place in 2-3 years time."
"We are eagerly anticipating bringing the Beaver Valley Innovation Hub -- including the Beaver Valley LaunchBox business accelerator– to Beaver Falls," offers Jenifer S. Cushman, PhD Chancellor, Penn State Beaver.
"Our location selection criteria included accessibility by public transportation, proximity to Bridges and Pathways consortium campuses (Community College of Beaver County, Geneva College, Penn State Beaver, Robert Morris University), and, most importantly, potential for revitalization impact on downtown development, supported by municipality vision and planning. Beaver Falls meets all of these qualifications, as well as the opportunity to collaborate with other efforts such as the Portobello building and Neighborhood North.
Those collaborations are currently under way!
"The LaunchBox is already laying the groundwork for entrepreneurial impact through establishing “creative corners” at libraries across Beaver County; the first was at the Beaver Falls Carnegie library. We look forward to working with the city and other initiatives towards a reconceived cultural district."
Would you be mine?
Christine Kroger, Executive Director for Neighborhood North, echoes Renee and Jen, "This is an exciting time to invest in Beaver Falls and Beaver County. The slow and steady work that has been done by many hands over the course of many years is bearing fruit today."
Truly, after witnessing disinvestment in recent decades, thus creating a gap in cultural and arts services to enrich the quality of life for local residents, the investments of the Portobello, Innovation Hub and Neighborhood North reflect a spirited community movement towards renewal. Beaver Falls is re-imagining what it will become, led by dedicated and hardworking residents and community leaders.
"Neighborhood North: Museum of Play is honored to be a part of these revitalization efforts," Kroger continues, "creating a children's museum to serve as a local destination, educational laboratory and community resource. We are delighted to join with others in our community to work towards creative, sustainable and equitable opportunities for workforce preparedness skills, early and family education, and cultural engagement."
Could you be mine?
In a region hailed for its resilience within a challenging economic landscape, the Portobello will be constructed on a vacant lot in the downtown business district of Beaver Falls along Route 18. With theater arts classes and productions, music, lectures, fitness, visual art, quality food, and an intimate artsy/urban space for weddings, parties, and meetings, the Portobello represents the positive cultural shift being directed by the determined residents of Beaver Falls.
Renee is excited to extend an invitation to the community to use the the Portobello.
"We continue to see the community readiness for this cultural life and arts center in the heart of Beaver Falls. We’ll invite the programming focus to come from city itself, and not from us. People will be able to rent the spaces in the building (event room, small theatre, gallery, meeting room, pottery studio, cafe, retail space, & rehearsal room) to bring the specific cultural, political, social, and artistic events they want and need."
Enthusiastic about collaborations with nonprofits who share similar missions, Mycelia Development is presently exploring and pursuing partnerships with like-minded organizations, even garnering the support of a significant Pittsburgh performing arts organization who will offer youth programming in 2021.
So let's make the most of this beautiful day
All this, while giving Beaver Falls top billing for constructing the first commercial green building in Beaver County.
"My hope is that the Portobello will be a catalyst for seeing what can be done to not only conserve natural resources, but to build something affordable that has great impact in the community as well."
Utilizing sustainable and Passive House building principles within its 16,600 ft. Green Globes certified facility, construction of the Portobello building will begin spring of 2020 with an anticipated opening in 2021. The facility will also create several new jobs and is calculated to retain more than 100 jobs within the downtown core.
With the addition of the Portobello building, the residents of Beaver Falls are leading the charge as the frontrunner in Beaver County’s revitalization within their neighborhood and throughout the surrounding region.