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Arts center project gets another donation

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Prathers donate auctioned house at 810 Washington

By Todd Martin

The plan to develop the 800 block of Main and Washington streets into an arts and conference center got another  boost this week.

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Attorney Don Prather and his wife, Greta, donated a house at 810 Washington St. to the city to use for the project, following up on the donation last October by Citizens Union Bank of property at 818 and 820 Washington.

 “This is kind of a dream project that we [with Leon Mooneyhan] have, and this kind of generous donation lets others know we’re still moving forward,” Shelbyville Mayor Tom Hardesty said.

Mooneyhan, who has been spearheading the project, said the donation is important for two reasons.

“Any contribution or donation reduces the scope of the project and makes it more financially feasible for us,” he said. “And it also shows the level of community support that is behind the project and hopefully encourages others to help.”

Prather said he noticed the property had been purchased at foreclosure by a Texas-based company, and, after talking it over with his wife, they decided to act.

“We wanted to keep it in local hands, and I knew that the city needed to acquire it for this project,” he said. “I was concerned that an out-of-town company may not be sympathetic to the city’s needs and the city might be forced to purchase it at an inflated price. So we talked about it and decided it was something we wanted to do.”

Greta Prather said she’s been involved with the arts for years, but not as much in Shelby County since moving here seven years ago.

“I’ve been very impressed d with how the community is focused on keeping downtown alive and vital,” she said. “It’s nice to see the initiative to improve and upgrade the downtown area, and it’s great to see an expansion with the theater.”

The concept, which would encompass the majority of the 800 block between Main and Washington Streets just east of the Citizens Union Bank branch, is for a 300-seat theater, conference space and joint lobby and gallery space with the current Shelby County Community Theatre. There also would be an underground parking area for up to 60 vehicles. The facility is envisioned as a joint project among the city, the county, Shelby County Public Schools and Ohio Valley Educational Cooperative, for which Mooneyhan serves as chief executive officer.

Still in the area proposed for the project is the old Operation Care building, which is just north of the theater and one other parcel west of that building.

For more than two years now Mooneyhan and Hardesty have been working on and gauging community interest in the so-called City Center, and Mooneyhan said it’s moving in the right direction, however slowly.

“This is a major project for our community,” he said. “The impact it can have here with expanded opportunities and benefits for conference space, community space and expanded arts space is immense. Plus, it can have great benefits for our community by helping entice businesses and industries into locating here. Along with education, a commitment to the arts and providing opportunities for arts is a big plus for communities trying to attract businesses.

“The process has been slow, and there are a lot of dots to connect, but we’re committed and optimistic that it will come to fruition. We’re in this for the long haul.”