The Belfast City Council has put the so-called event center on the back burner, but a group of supporters is acting as though the life of the project depended upon swift action. For several longtime supporters it’s now or never.

The idea of a multipurpose community events center grew out of three decades’ worth of efforts to bring a performing arts venue to Belfast. Ten years ago, those efforts focused on the Opera House, but the space, while fitting a romantic notion of a theater, would have been exceedingly costly to renovate to modern safety codes.

Last year, a city committee charged with conducting a feasibility study for a performance venue focused its efforts on the former Mathews Bros. showroom on Spring Street. Other locations, including the old Crosby School, currently owned by the National Theater Workshop of the Handicapped, might have suited the project but were unavailable. At the end of the winnowing process, the former Mathews Bros showroom on Spring Street was the only venue that was left.

But organizers have taken pains to say that the Mathews Bros. showroom is, as Scootch Pankonin, who is involved with the latest effort, called it, “a standout as first choice.”

“Instead of looking at rebuilding the envelope, you’re looking at a fairly inexpensive rehabilitation of the structure,” she said.

On Jan. 7, 50 people gathered at the Mathews Bros. showroom to discuss the future of the project. City Councilor Mike Hurley, who served on the city committee that studied the project, said he was surprised at the turnout. He had expected a dozen people and had optimistically set out 30 folding chairs.

Hurley said the group could take advantage of an existing 501c3 tax-exempt status set up in the early 2000s around the idea of renovating the Opera House. Where the money would come from is less clear. Hurley said he hoped the city would buy the building, which is currently on the market for $1.3 million, and fund a bare-bones renovation that he estimated would cost less than $500,000.

“The part that’s missing is the organization [that would operate the venue], and we think that’s now under way and catching fire,” he said.

The group plans to meet again Thursday, Jan. 21 and will eventually submit a proposal to the City Council that will address fundraising – what Pankonin called, “stages two through 20.”

Reports of the Jan. 7 meeting, including a write-up by the Belfast Area Chamber of Commerce, noted that attendees included a school drama instructor, a contra dance organizer, local musicians, representatives of the Belfast Maskers and Northport Music Theatre Business, local inn and B&B owners, realtors and a representative of BACC.

Forty-nine of the attendees filled out forms stating they would be willing to work on the project and 15 agreed to serve on a board of directors.

“There’s just a lot of people who stood up and said, ‘We’re going to Camden or Bangor or Augusta or wherever when we could be having those things in Belfast,’ ” Pankonin said, “which brings people and money into the community, which is what has downtown businesses interested.”

Hurley was adamant that, for his part, it’s now or never. “If this was just about some people needing a place for a dance, I’d say, ‘Well, keep looking,’ ” he said. “It’s not. It’s all about economic and community development for Belfast.”