SUNBURY - Resembling preachers in front of their congregation, local legislators and a state official addressed a small gathering Friday inside historic Albright United Methodist Church.

It wasn't a sermon they delivered, but instead a state grant of $312,270 from the Neighborhood Assistance Tax Credit program.

It will be used to help transform the vacant building into low-cost office space for nonprofit organizations that provide services, support and educational opportunities to area residents, but also to create a new performing arts center that will include seating for 600 and a venue for weddings, receptions and large group events with seating up to 250.

Once finished, the revitalized building will be the largest facility of its kind between Williamsport and Harrisburg, state officials said.

"Through the Neighborhood Assistance Program (NAP), the public and private sectors are coming together to restore the historic building to attract new businesses and jobs to the city," said Champ Holman, deputy secretary of the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED).

Sunbury Revitalization Inc. will receive the funding to lead the project.

"The Neighborhood Assistance Program is a wonderful example of how a partnership between the state and private entities produce tangible results in our communities," said Sen. John Gordner (R-27).

State Rep. Lynda Schlegel Culver said preservation of the landmark, located just a block south of Market Street, will complement downtown revitalization efforts.

NAP encourages businesses to invest in projects that improve distressed areas and support neighborhood conservation. The program supports affordable housing improvement, community services, crime prevention, education, job training and neighborhood assistance.