TWINSBURG -- The city could see a new downtown art center with live theater and potential studio space, after the Twin Masks Performing Arts Center cleared a zoning hurdle in City Council June 27.
The Twin Masks center is eyeing the former Huntington Bank on Ravenna Road, said longtime Twinsburg resident Claudia Lillibridge, after City Council unanimously passed a resolution adding live theater as a conditional use in the C-5 district.
Council confirmed Planning Commission's stance that a "live performance theater" is a similar use to what is permitted for C-5, a mixed-use district. Planning Commission accepted the conditional use at its June 5 meeting.
The building, owned by Twinsburg Banking Co. and inhabited by Huntington Bank, was constructed in 1912 and is appraised at $451,770, according to the tax records at the Summit County Fiscal Office.
Lillibridge, who is active as both an actress and director with several local theaters, said the building could host theatrical performances, an art gallery and a cafe. The 9,516-square-foot facility could also offer studio space, she said.
However, residents won't be seeing a production of "Lend Me a Tenor" soon.
"We are very much in the beginning stages," Lillibridge said. "There are many things that have to be planned a bit more."
Lillibridge said she is looking to raise money to purchase the building. A GoFundMe account has been set up at https://www.gofundme.com/twinsburgexperimentaltheatre, and the hope is to raise $5,380 to make a deposit. As of June 28, $655 had been raised.
"I've had numerous people generously donate," Lillibridge said. "I am so grateful to all of them."
Lillibridge and her realtor have been in contact with the realtor representing Huntington, and plans are being considered by both sides. In addition, Lillibridge said she will seek non-profit status for the art center.
When she toured the space, she said she envisioned it as an arts center.
"I've always loved that building," Lillibridge said. "It has a historic significance in this area."
The Twinsburg Banking Co. merged with First National Bank of Akron in 1984, according to information on U.S. Bank Locations, an online directory of banks. It was renamed FirstMerit Bank in 1997; FirstMerit would merge with Huntington in 2016, and Huntington announced in March 2016 it would close the Ravenna Road location as part of the merger.
However, if the idea to establish the art center at the former bank falls through, the resolution permitting the live theater as a conditional use in a C-5 district would still open other doors for the art center, Lillibridge said.
"Any C-5 property would be open to us," she said. "It would open the door to alive live theater in a C-5 zone. It's a great opportunity for others to start their own venture."
Mayor Ted Yates said the art center is "an interesting concept."
"I think if they are able to pull it off, I think it will be a great addition to the Square," Yates said. "It's a great building. I'd like to see something happen with it."