Lingo-Townsend offers home for arts center

Developer to donate 10 acres if shopping center approved
Paul Kuhns, left, of the Rehoboth Beach Film Society, speaks to the Henlopen Acres commissioners about an offer of 10 acres of land by L.T. Associates that could be used for an arts center outside Lewes. Listening in the foreground is Henlopen Acres Commissioner Frank Jamison. BY RYAN MAVITY
August 5, 2014

Rehoboth Beach Film Society officials say they have been offered land for a new arts and cultural center.

Paul Kuhns said L.T. Associates, developers of a controversial mall project in Lewes, have offered the society 10 acres if the project is approved. L.T. Associates is currently in U.S. District Court, fighting Sussex County Council’s denial of an application to zone the parcel commercial.

In a presentation to the Henlopen Acres commissioners July 18, Kuhns, speaking on behalf of the film society, said the Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival will lose its venue at the Movies at Midway after this year, so it must find a new home. Organizations such as the film society, the Rehoboth Art League and Clear Space Productions are on board with the idea of a cultural center, the question is how to acquire land.

“We all felt if something like this was available, our organizations would be able to push to raise money to build an arts center,” Kuhns said. “The hinderance of the whole thing was land.”

Sue Early, executive director of the society, said there are several possibilities for land but nothing concrete yet, with the Lingo Townsend property an option. She said all the organizations involved believe an arts center would be a great idea.

L.T. Associates' Townsend Village Centre project has been controversial for many years. The plan for a 300,000 square foot shopping and office complex was opposed by Lewes residents because of its effect on traffic on Kings Highway and Gills Neck Road and proximity to Cape Henlopen High School. Sussex County Council denied L.T. Associates' change of zoning by 3-2 vote in January 2010. L.T. Associates took the case to Court of Chancery and then U.S. District Court of Delaware to get the decision overturned.

Kuhns said L.T. Associates are optimistic the company will be successful in court. He said Lingo Townsend has asked the arts community for support for the development of the property in exchange for the 10 acres.

At this point, Kuhns said, there is no money for the building yet; he said getting the land was a starting point. Everything is still subject to a decision from the court and approval from the county, but with the land, Kuhns said, fundraising for the building could begin.

From the film society’s point of view, he said, the building would include offices and an art house-style theater.

Early said an arts center with three screens of different sizes could provide multiple benefits to the community in terms of jobs, services and events. She said people would have daily access with more programming and the potential for events like mini-film festivals that could expand the economic impact and run separate from the yearly film festival.

Diana Beebe, president of the Rehoboth Art League, said the league supports the concept of an arts center, which could be used for a satellite campus outside the league's Henlopen Acres home.

As for what happens after this year’s festival, Early said plans are still in the works but the event will go on, albeit at multiple venues. While it will be a different look for the festival, which has been running for 17 years, it will still have the same quality of films, Early said.


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