A divided borough council has voted to approve demolition of a historic central Pennsylvania theater damaged by an arson a year ago.
The Bellefonte Borough Council voted 5-4 Monday to approve demolition of the Garman Theater and Opera House as well as the Hotel Do De next door.
More than 100 people packed the meeting, most supporting a proposal by the Bellefonte Historical and Cultural Association to save the theater. The Bellefonte Industrial Development Authority favored a local developer's plan to raze the structures and build a 32-unit apartment complex.
Council Vice President Vana Dainty said that most people she spoke with didn't favor saving the building, and housing would be a boon to the town and its businesses.
"I believe that more people walking in the streets of Bellefonte with some expendable income would be a great benefit," she said.
Former State Theatre director Jack Lafond said the Garman's large size would allow a regional arts center with shows and an artist-in-residence program.
"It's not about a piece of real estate," he said. "It's about the heart and soul of this town."
The Garman was built in 1890 and played host to Harry Houdini, George Burns and Gracie Allen, and other acts.
An attorney for the historical and cultural association said he plans to go to court to block the demolition.
Bellefonte recently gained national attention as the place where former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was tried on child sex-abuse charges and convicted.