by Stephen Kaye

Pine Plains Memorial Hall, owned by Jack Banning and a group of local investors, is moving ahead with a renovation plan that should please the citizens of Pine Plains and the entire northeast corner of Dutchess and nearby Columbia counties.

Banning, owner of the Pines Plains Platter and an adjacent restored house now an architect’s office, told TMI that the development plan is in response to listening to comments from citizens of what they would like to see in this old, long abandoned and neglected brick building at the center of the town.

Recreating a laundromat that was the most recent use in the building was high on the list of preferred uses. A laundromat has been designed by architect Doug Larson for the basement level where work is nearing completion. It is expected to open for business in late April. Access will be via the parking lot at the rear of the building.

Provided the money can be raised, the main floor will be restored as a multi-use performing arts venue. Upstairs will be spaces for artist studios and offices. Banning envisions a program of visiting artists and troupes of all kinds. Because grants will be necessary, a 501 c 3 organization is in formation. Brian Keeler has signed on as executive director of Pine Plains Memorial Hall, Inc. He has political, management and theatrical experience and was chief of staff for Senator Terry Gibson. Keeler will oversee the renovation of Memorial Hall and develop the non-profit organization and its fund raising efforts. He will be in charge of the arts and community programming.

Keeler commented that the success of the hall will need the combined effort of many people in the community. He anticipates that when people learn about it they will embrace the project. Banning says it will signal “the rising of Pine Plains.”

Supervisor Brian Coons and Planning Board chair John Forrelle have been briefed on the plans. Forrelle commented that the zoning law may have to be changed as it specifies what uses can be conducted. A performance space is not one of them.