Bucks County Playhouse senior management is developing a plan to take over responsibility for running the currently-closed New Hope visitors center at the request of New Hope Borough Council, say sources close to the situation who requested anonymity. (Borough Hall did not respond to queries in time for this article)
Bucks County Playhouse Producing Director Alex Fraser acknowledged, “We’re working now on a plan of how the Playhouse can help make the Visitors Center a very visible centerpiece of New Hope’s revitalization, supporting local businesses and keeping tourist dollars in the Borough.”
That should be music to the ears of many merchants, since the visitors center has been closed since Dec. 31 (even though it’s available from the borough for $1 per year to any taker who will pay the purported $50,000 or more per year in operating costs).
Bucks County Playhouse isn’t alone in pursuing potential management of the visitors center — the Free Press has learned that at least two other efforts are underway separately to reopen the facility.
But for now, the Playhouse seems to be in the lead, and those close to the situation say planners there are talking “inclusiveness” in terms of involving all businesses in their vision of the facility as a promotional center.
Indeed, Playhouse owners have a penchant for taking on distressed iconic properties around New Hope, especially those just a stone’s throw away. Next to the Playhouse from the ashes of Club Zadar will be created a new Playhouse Inn, which is building out a satellite facility on East Mechanic Street adjacent to another historic structure used by Bucks County Playhouse owners as a garage. The East Mechanic Street properties are among the oldest in New Hope and had been ravaged by floods.
Additionally, it was revealed in the Free Press earlier this week, Playhouse owners are buying the troubled Four Seasons Mall at 52. S. Main St. and planning to develop an indoor, upscale farmers market there. And Playhouse owners are also re-purposing a former church in Lambertville into a music hall, and run a ladies’ couture shop on West Bridge Street.
Said one merchant of the Playhouse effort to aid the visitors center, “It’s good that it will be open — that’s the main thing, especially for the bathrooms, quarters and directions.”
Another less sanguine business owner remarked, “I wonder if they’re out for themselves.”
Eric Lee, owner of popular retailer Mystickal Tymes said, “Bucks County Playhouse’s reach is vast. As long as their approach is unbiased, I don’t see why it wouldn’t be of benefit to the community.”