Performing Artists Collective Alliance (PACA)

2020 Greater Erie Award for Preservation Excellence

The final 2020 Greater Erie Award being announced by Preservation Erie is a Preservation Excellence Award recognizing the Performing Artists Collective Alliance (PACA) for their ongoing transformation of the Mayer Building at 1505 State Street.

The vision of Erie native Mark Tanenbaum, PACA began in 2010 as an independent, progressively-minded theater and performing arts center. Housed in a downtown historic landmark building built in 1899, PACA seeks to help revitalize the downtown area and promote a sustainable artistic and cultural community.

Since its inception, hundreds of individual performances have been held at the venue. PACA has produced award-winning plays and hosted international classical musicians to Grammy award-winning jazz performers, local butoh dance performances, to local urban wordsmiths.

A tenant of the building for six years, PACA purchased the five-story, 70,000 square foot Mayer Building in December 2016 for $230,000 with the intent to develop it as a hub for Erie’s creative community. The building already features several first floor retail spaces with storefronts and a black box theater, art gallery, and 1,000 square foot dance studio on the second floor.

Using artist space development efforts across the country – from Pittsburgh to Detriot, and from New Orleans to Seattle – for inspiration, PACA is working towards creating a live/work environment for craftsmen and artists at 1505 State. They currently offer professional studios ranging in size from 240 to 1,600 square feet for lease at $200-$600 per month. The “live” space is still in development; however, plans are in-process for the 5th floor to become condominiums.

The fourth floor is slated to become rehearsal and storage space.

When PACA purchased the Mayer Building, many of the State Street facing windows of the upper floors were covered with plywood. As the windows are a significant feature of the building, and having them boarded up made the building look vacant and tired, they immediately went to work raising funds and making plans to replace the all of the windows on the State Street facade.

With $45,000 in Community Development Block Grant funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development re-granted through the Erie Redevelopment Authority, $25,000 from the Erie Community Foundation, and $47,000 raised by PACA, they contracted with Considine Biebel & Co. in March 2019 to create and install 36 double-pane, historically accurate windows.

Just a few months later, in July 2019, PACA brought the talent of artist John Vahanian and Schutte Woodworking together to address yet another window, a 13-pane beveled leaded glass window that was discovered in a fourth floor storage room. As part of the $10,000 restoration, Vahanian replaced all of the lead framing and re-welded the metal strut supports of the window, and Schutte Woodworking built a custom mahogany frame. Together, the window and the frame weighed approximately 450 lbs., and they were installed above the State Street storefront in the south end of the building.

Since acquiring the Mayer Building, PACA has exemplified what it means to be a good steward of a historic property. They are thoughtfully making decisions about the rehabilitation of the building and taking care to restore its original character. Preservation Erie applauds PACA’s activation of this previously underused historic resource so that the building again contributes to the economic vitality of the City of Erie.

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