A major arts and entertainment venue in Harrisburg is poised to exit bankruptcy, in a move that promises to bring significant change to the House of Music, Arts & Culture (HMAC).
Judge Henry W. Van Eck, U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, has approved the sale of the sprawling Midtown venue, its liquor license and other assets for $6 million to a new partnership called HMAC LLC. This will enable the current controlling entity—Bartlett, Traynor & London—to exit Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
The sale is expected to close in early June.
Chuck London, a founding HMAC partner, is a minority owner in the new entity. His founding co-partners, Gary Bartlett and John Traynor, will have no ownership in the new company.
“I feel we’re at a turning point with the promise of a new beginning,” London said, in a telephone interview. “We need to take all the lessons we’ve learned from the past and make them our future.”
Bartlett, Traynor & London LLC entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy last August following a loss of business that Traynor blamed on a social media firestorm directed at the venue. He also said that the bankruptcy filing would allow the company to reorganize its finances in preparation for a sale.
According to court documents, a sales agreement was reached in January, with the sale order approved in late March. Right now, the sale is scheduled to close on June 6.
Once the transaction is complete, Traynor said that he will step down as the day-to-day manager of HMAC, which, until a rebranding, was known as the Harrisburg Midtown Arts Center. He expects to stay on for about six months to help with the transition and to help supervise a period of construction.
That construction will include the renovation of the basement level into a third music space, a rooftop deck and a “major facelift” to the front of the building, Traynor said. Much of the construction will be funded with a $1 million state Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) grant that HMAC received in late 2017, he said.
“Now that we have new ownership, it’s going to be a bright new future for this building and for this community,” Traynor said.
In late 2007, Traynor, Bartlett and London purchased the former Harrisburg Jewish Community Center and Police Athletic Club building from the Harrisburg Redevelopment Authority. At the time, the sprawling, 21,000-square-foot building had been long abandoned and was badly blighted.
A lengthy, costly renovation followed that eventually yielded the Stage on Herr bar and performance space on the lower level, a restaurant and bar on the main level and the spacious Capitol Room upstairs.
“This project was key to the redevelopment and transformation of Midtown,” Traynor said. “Everyone said I was crazy. Everyone said that this project shouldn’t happen.”
London, a long-time executive with NBCUniversal Media who lives in Los Angeles, said that he planned to spend much more time in Harrisburg under the new partnership, which includes Christopher Werner, a Dover, Pa., resident who owns a sports memorabilia company.
“We’ll be able to bring to the community something that we haven’t been able to before,” London said. “We have to make this a smooth and functional and polite and wonderful experience not just for us, but for everyone.”
A new general manager, he said, will be hired who can “make [HMAC] even more of a success than in the past.”
“It’s going to be new ownership, and that means that new thinking will be brought to the process,” London said.
For his part, Traynor said that he and Bartlett will continue to live on their farm in Perry County, but also may live part-time in Italy, where they’re eyeing another rehabilitation project.
“We’re going to take the time and find a new project that we enjoy,” he said.
The House of Music, Arts & Culture (HMAC) is located at 1110 N. 3rd St., Harrisburg. For more information, visit www.harrisburgarts.com.