Kelly Sullivan, a local artist, bought the old Strand Theatre on Coryell Street in the City of Lambertville with the intention of turning it into Strand Arts, a multi-use art house.
After a long legal battle with one of the Strand’s neighbors, Strand Arts is closing its doors before it had a chance to open.
Sullivan announced the news to the Lambertville community recently on Facebook.
“We sold Strand Theatre today. After 3.5 years of doing my best, I had to make the difficult decision to let it go,” Sullivan wrote on Facebook.
Sullivan cited legal bills as the main reason she had to sell Strand Theatre, which could possibly exceed $400,000 if the legal battle continued, according to her post.
Prior to the sale of the property, Strand Arts was set for a spring opening date.
While a revived Strand was an idea that many art-focused residents were looking forward to, it was marred with problems from the beginning.
At first, the COVID-19 hampered Strand Arts by slowing down the planning board application process in 2020.
Then, Strand Arts’ efforts were stifled when the property’s next door neighbor started an adverse possession case in the New Jersey legal system. To put the legal battle in plain English, a portion of the old theater was close to the neighbor’s property, which the neighbor and Strand litigated.
When Sullivan should’ve been paying for the necessary renovations to bring the theater back to its glory days, she was using that money to finance the legal battle instead.
Sullivan stayed in the ring as long as she could, but eventually had to throw the towel in as her vision of turning Strand Theatre into something more became tied up.
Despite conceding defeat in the legal battle, Sullivan said her resilient spirit remains unfazed as she looks toward the future.
“It comes as a great loss in many ways, but in letting go I’m beginning to find some of the silliness and joy that were previously a regular part of my day,” Sullivan said in her Facebook post. Later on she added, “For now, I am going to take some time to recover my spirit, travel, paint, and enjoy life without the crushing weight of legal bills.”
Sullivan dedicated part of her post to the entire Lambertville community for their unwavering and widespread support of this project.
“A very sincere thank you to all of you who supported this effort through your words, actions, time and talents,” she said.
Built in 1915, Strand Theatre started out as a movie house. It provided Lambertville residents with a first-class movie viewing experience for decades. It was eventually bought by Finkles and turned into a warehouse. It caught fire 50 years ago and has basically been vacant ever since. That is, until Sullivan came along and attempted to turn the 5,000 square foot building into a multi-use art house.
With Michael Farewell as her chief architect, the building would’ve hosted art galleries, poetry readings, plays, art auctions, painting classes and a litany of similar events surrounding bringing people together with art.
While Sullivan’s vision was never realized, there’s hope for the future.
The new owners intend to keep the dream of Strand Arts alive by creating a 501c3 called Strand Arts Collaborative, according to Sullivan’s Facebook post. This enables them to potentially host weekend events opposed to the original plan of keeping Strand Arts busy all week.
It might not be the original plan, but it’s keeping the idea of Strand Arts alive.