Last night, I had the pleasure of attending the Grand Re-Opening of the Hiway Theatre in Jenkintown.
The Hiway Theatre has been an important community, cultural and economic institution since 1913 and is one of few non-chain and free-standing independent theatres that remain in the Delaware Valley. Having various names and owners over the years, its mission has always been in bringing people together to enjoy high quality films. But time, neglect and heavy use had left the theatre in desperate need of a carefully orchestrated renovation. In 2003, a group of local residents, who recognized the Hiway's importance to the community formed a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation to purchase, operate and rehabilitate the theatre. Donors were invited to this evening's special Grand Reopening Event.
What I found remarkable is that this was an example of all levels of government working together with private citizens to bring about something important for the community. In order to pull this off, county commissioners, Abington, Cheltenham and Jenkintown elected officials and private donors got together. On hand this evening were Congressman Joe Hoeffel and U.S. Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz. Montgomery County commissioners Thomas Ellis and Ruth Damsker were also present and had helped to raise funds. Congresswoman Schwartz was instrumental in getting PA Governor Ed Rendell to approve the largest piece of funding from the state right before she left her position in PA state government to become a member of Congress. We also got to meet some of the architects and designers. The theatre looks wonderful and is very comfortable.
Before the presentation, we were treated to a wonderful catered affair in the lobby with delightful hors douvres , cocktails and chamber music provided by some very talented local student musicians. Then, we saw a special screening of the movie "The Philadelphia Story" with Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and Jimmy Stewart. The film was selected because it was made in 1940 – the same year the Hiway theatre got its current name.
You may wonder what this has to do with real estate – actually, it has a lot to do with it. Anything that strengthens a community, enhances its culture and brings concerned citizens together with government, is an asset to the community and has a "trickle-down" effect that benefits local property owners. Conversely, the alternative of having a decayed and neglected theatre and a blighted appearance would have had a negative impact on Jenkintown and the surrounding townships and their real property values.