The House of Music, Arts & Culture (HMAC) has sold, as a new ownership group closed this morning on a $6 million deal.
Business partners Chuck London, Chris Werner and Javier Diaz, under an entity called HMAC Venue LLC, now own the sprawling Midtown arts, entertainment, restaurant and bar complex.
“This has always been my favorite venue, so this is the fulfillment of a dream,” said Werner, a Dover, Pa., resident who also owns Lifetime of Autographs, a celebrity and music memorabilia business.
Werner has been an investor in HMAC for almost two years, he said.
Co-owner London, a long-time NBCUniversal executive, was a founding partner of the original HMAC corporate entity, Bartlett, Traynor & London. Last year, that company declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy following a social media firestorm directed at the venue, which the owners said substantially harmed their business.
The third partner, Javier Diaz, owns Wings Air Helicopters, a New York-based helicopter charter company, said John Traynor, part of the former ownership group.
The $6 million price tag covers everything at HMAC: the real estate, the décor, the liquor license, etc., Werner said. Originally, the sale was expected to close in early June, as per the sales agreement filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, but was moved up by about two weeks.
As a new owner, Werner said that he often will be on site at HMAC and will take the lead in booking bands and scheduling other events. A new general manager, Patrick Hite, formerly with Appalachian Brewing Co. in Harrisburg, will run the venue’s day-to-day operations, Werner said.
“I’ve been coming to HMAC for 10 years, and I’ve always held this place in high regard,” Hite said. “The opportunity here is endless.”
HMAC, on the 1100-block of N. 3rd Street, occupies a 34,000-square-foot building that housed the original Harrisburg Jewish Community Center and then the Harrisburg Police Athletic League. It had been long empty and increasingly blighted when HMAC’s founders bought it from the Harrisburg Redevelopment Authority for $153,000 in late 2007.
Years of renovation followed. In 2009, the first performance space and bar opened, the 300-person capacity Stage on Herr on the lower level, followed by a restaurant, bar and arts space on the main level, and then the expansive Capitol Room, which can accommodate as many as 1,500 people, on the upper level.
The new owners plan even more renovation work. In late 2017, HMAC received a $1 million state Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) grant, which conveyed with the sale. It now will finance the renovation of the basement level into a third performance space, which will accommodate about 600 patrons, and the construction of a rooftop deck, among other projects, Werner said.
Traynor said, that while he no longer manages HMAC, he would stay on to oversee the construction, which is expected to take four to six months. The project is being led by Bret Peters of the Harrisburg-based Office for Planning and Architecture, and Jonathan Thomas, owner of the Harrisburg-based Smarter Design Group, Traynor said.
For his part, Traynor said that he was “delighted” with the completion of the deal, saying that he and his husband, Gary Bartlett, were proud of what they had accomplished.
“We built wonderful foundations,” he said. “I’m really excited and happy for the possibilities that HMAC has now.”
Werner said that he wants to build upon that foundation, substantially increasing the number of shows and events at HMAC. He also hopes to reestablish the trust and patronage of people who may have become estranged from the venue over the years.
“Now is the time that we have to get the community to come back,” he said.
“At its essence, the experience guests will feel will be as welcoming as it’s always been but even more so,” he said.
HMAC is located at 1110 N. 3rd St., Harrisburg. For more information, visit www.harrisburgarts.com.